New Orleans Mayor announces new crime fighting plan

Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 12:27pm

NEW ORLEANS, LA (FOX8) -- Twenty-five days into 2012, and New Orleans has seen 18 murders across the city. Today, the mayor announced a crime fighting plan to reduce the rising homicide rate. Landrieu and his administration are now trying to target violent gun offenders and want judges to set higher cash bonds.

“Today, we are sending a message about illegal possession of weapons,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Landrieu says, when you look at the statistics of who and how people are murdered in New Orleans, in almost every one of those situations, it involves the illegal possession of a weapon.

“The Bureau of Justice report in March of 2001, indicated, that 90 percent of the homicides that they examined, happened with a fire arm. In 2011, 40 percent of those arrested for murder, have fire arms,” said Landrieu.

In a letter, Landrieu asked the chief judges at municipal and criminal court to set bond at a minimum of $30,000 dollars for those facing the charge.

A similar policy change has shown success in reducing the murder rate in St. Louis.

“They believe after careful study, and careful analysis, that this helped them bring down their murder rate for a specific reason, because it began targeting the individuals that had a background in this,” said Landrieu.

“We see a clear relationship between these illegal possession of fire arm arrest, and the actual murders that are occurring on the streets of New Orleans,” said New Orleans Criminal Justice Coordinator, James Carter.

“One, you're going to have a lot of people going to jail, in the sense that all the kids pack, that's reality, whether you're in the dope gang or not,” said Tulane Criminologist Peter Scharf.

Sharf says this could be a racially divisive plan, and needs more thought.

“Everyone wants to take credit with their particular program, so you have to tease out all the things St. Louis is doing, to see really why it went down,” said Scharf.

“We have some serious concerns, and this is pointed out by the justice department of economic and therefore by definition, racial disparities, in the way that this would be applied. And just because it was tried, and worked, there, doesn't mean the same thing will work here, or that is was constitutional when they did it,” said LA ACLU Exec. Dir. Marjorie Esman.

Esman says she has serious concerns with the mayors request for electronic monitoring put on when released on bond.

“We are going to force the question to be asked, what about an ankle monitor, that is another very important critical piece,” said Chief Ronal Serpas.

“So you're walking around with this monitor, at your own expense, and then it turn out that you're not guilty, then what? There's no question that New Orleans is in a state of crisis, slapping a quick fix proposal, without thinking though all the ramifications is not the way to solve it,” said Esman.

The Orleans parish criminal district court released a statement addressing the mayor's request: It says the court has been in discussion with the mayor and "On those weapons charges that are booked into state court, the bonds that are set in each case will be reflective of the charge, prior criminal history of the arrested subject, and other statutory factors as set forth in the law."

The police chief in St. Louis says the bond approach there reduced the city's homicides by 20 percent, a level not seen since 2004.

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