Despite years of criticism about the high number of arrests for minor offenses in New Orleans, police continued the trend in 2009, while arrests for serious felony crimes remained static, says an analysis by the Metropolitan Crime Commission reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The number of arrests hit a three-year high last year at almost 60,000 — a rate much higher than national trends. The focus of much of that police energy was on the most petty offenses. Commission President Rafael Goyeneche contends the statistics show a waste of precious police resources for little payoff.
While police followed through on a pledge by former Superintendent Warren Riley to reduce arrests on municipal charges — such as public drunkenness or disturbing the peace — that change was coupled with a spike in traffic arrests, which grew by more than 3,000 to almost 10,000 arrests last year. Although the number of felony arrests stayed flat at just short of 8,000, there was significant improvement in the number of cases accepted for prosecution. Violent felony case convictions more than doubled to 491 last year, an improvement the commission credited to a better working relationship between police officers and the district attorney’s office.