In New Orleans, where police officers make more than 50,000 arrests annually, often for minor municipal and traffic offenses, serious felony cases all too often end up in a dismissal or plea of guilty to a lesser crime, says an analysis reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The study by the Metropolitan Crime Commission found that of the 8,160 felony arrests made by New Orleans Police Department officers in 2007, only 1,977, 24 percent, led to a felony conviction. Results from the arrest and prosecution of people charged with violent crimes are even less successful, with a 13 percent conviction rate for the 1,214 violent felony arrests made in 2007.
At the same time, police continue to make a large number of arrests for low-level municipal and traffic offenses, although the focus on these minor violators has decreased over the past year. Police Superintendent Warren Riley and a new ordinance encouraged officers to rely more on a court summons for petty offenses, such as public intoxication or criminal trespass. The strategy is designed to free up police officers so they can spend more time on the streets, concentrating on serious crimes. Improving the felony conviction rate, particularly for violent crimes and weapons charges, is imperative to restoring trust in the criminal justice system, said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Crime Commission.