Louisiana lawmakers and law enforcement officers say new federal help is needed to combat the post-Katrina crime wave in New Orleans, reports Gannett News Service. “We are faced with the daily reality of an imminent collapse of our criminal justice system,” said Anthony Cannatella Sr., New Orleans deputy chief of police. The city has recorded 91 homicides this year, the highest per capita murder rate in the nation. U.S. Attorney James Letten said “loosely knit drug gangs” of young men from the poorer sections of town are largely responsible for New Orleans’ lawlessness and murders. He said thousands of returning Hurricane Katrina victims can’t find jobs. Some turn to crime.
The city also is suffering from a lack of jail space. Only four of the city’s 11 jails have reopened. New Orleans also lacks mental health and drug treatment centers, so many dangerous people who should be institutionalized or in jail are on the streets. The police city’s force has lost about 500 officers since Katrina struck in 2005. “In a nutshell, we need federal funding,” said Judge David Bell of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. Congress approved $50 million in federal crime fighting funds for Katrina-hit areas this year and is likely to respond to the request for more money.