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A Better Understanding of Murder?

Posted on by Townsend Myers

Murder RateIn 2004, Milwaukee had 87 murders. This was unacceptable to the city so in 2005 they began a program that partnered law enforcement with community leaders to not only investigate these crimes, but try to understand the root causes for each individual murder. They had plenty of work to do as they looked into and analyzed the 121 murders that took place that year. This Homicide Review Commission’s intent was to delve into the cause of each murder then design a strategy to limit or eradicate the conditions and behaviors that had been at the root of the problem. By 2009 the Milwaukee  murder rate had dropped from 40 percent to 72.

Will this program work in New Orleans?

In 2010 our city saw 175 murders. As of the publishing of this post, we’ve matched that number — we’ve had two murders today alone (Nov. 30). We are not getting better. Our murder rate is about ten times the national average.

While New Orleanians have for some time been saying this is unacceptable, the powers that be have perfected the art of blue ribbon commissions and have authorized enough studies to explain the totality of the human condition without much positive effect. So now, Mayor Landrieu has announced his Mayor’s Strategic Command to Reduce Murders based on the Milwaukee model. See the article in the Times-Picayune.

Here, several different “action teams” will convene monthly, Landrieu said. There’s an executive squad made up of officials from local and federal law enforcement agencies. There’s a team of officers that will spring into action following a murder, seeking out suspects and family members. There’s a group dedicated to the data and policy aspects of murder, as well as a team focused on community service and outreach.

Columnist Jarvis DeBerry doesn’t seem so optimistic about the mayor’s new plan, and takes issue with the administration’s downplay of our crime problem (which is very obvious to the rest of us as well as any tourists who might have happened to witness recent gunfights on Canal Street and Bourbon at Halloween). See DeBarry’s editorial, The New Orleans murder rate can’t be downplayed.

Reading about the mayor’s plan, I’m hopeful for any program that addresses the root causes of crime. But I am a bit dismayed by the fact that no one is really sure where the money will come from. And a quick look at the Milwaukee crime stats show that the murder rate has been creeping back up passing those unacceptable 2004 numbers that brought about the original review program. We’ll be watching their progress as we simultaneously watch our backs.

It’s not going to be an easy problem to solve.



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