The investigation “is going to be a watershed event” in the city’s struggle against its towering murder rate, says Dee Wood Harper, a Loyola University emeritus professor and co-author, with Kelly Frailing, of the upcoming book, “Fundamentals of Criminology.”
“The brazenness of the Mother’s Day shooting is a trademark of the kinds of things we’ve been having here,” including homicides, daylight killings, and children being hurt or killed in crossfire, Professor Harper says. “It’s a lot about retaliatory killing.”
Over the years, New Orleans has lurched, not always successfully, toward easing pervasive violence in its roughest areas, with people coming together for marches and the city working with local clergy to ameliorate a murder rate climb exacerbated by hurricane Katrina. While the number of people murdered regularly climbs to near 200 per year, other crimes, including burglary and assault, are way down in the Crescent City.
The US Department of Justice has since last summer cooperated with the New Orleans Police Department to end a pattern of discriminatory policing and excessive force that has driven a wedge between the communities enduring the violence and the police ordered to patrol the streets.
But perhaps more critically, Mayor Mitch Landrieu late last year launched the city’s newest and arguably most dramatic anti-violence effort, in part by opening a slew of new youth centers, but also by reorganizing the city’s anti-gang taskforce under a new philosophy: single out the most violence-prone members of various neighborhoods and use historical arrest data to help build conspiracy charges around them and their crews.
Last week, the new unit announced its largest bust so far, the indictment of 15 members of a violent street gang involved in several street murders, including the killing of a 5-year-old girl last year.