Last year, university researchers conducted an experiment in which police fired 700 blank rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood in a single afternoon. No one called to report the gunfire, reports the Associated Press. New Orleans residents are reluctant to come forward as witnesses, fearing retaliation. Experts say that is one of several reasons homicides are on the rise in the Big Easy at a time when other cities are seeing their murder rates plummet.
The city’s murder rate is still far lower than a decade ago, when New Orleans was the country’s murder capital. But in recent years, the city’s homicide rate has climbed again to nearly 10 times the national average. “There is something going on in New Orleans that is not going on elsewhere,” said criminologist Peter Scharf. Many of the killings are related to drugs and gangs, but police say more are simply disputes that get out of hand. Along with reluctant witnesses, experts say the city has too few police and inexperienced prosecutors.