Stories of street killings in New Orleans continue to crowd nightly newscasts, despite vows by leaders to stem the violence, says USA Today. As of yesterday, police had counted 197 murders in the city — well above last year’s tally of 175. The murder rate last year was 51 per 100,000 residents — 10 times the national average and five times larger than other similar-size cities. The violence is hampering the rebuilding and repopulating of New Orleans from the floods that followed Katrina.
As murder rates elsewhere continue to drop, New Orleans is trending the wrong way, says John Roman of the Urban Institute: “What’s happening in New Orleans is completely different from what you’re seeing in almost every major U.S. city.” Why has it been so difficult to stop the killings, even with new leadership at the police department and the conviction of several officers involved in post-Katrina shootings of civilians? Katrina and the ensuing collapse of schools, home life and other support structures likely played a role, says Lance Hill of the New Orleans-based Southern Institute for Education and Research. Children displaced by the floods returned with their families to a wrecked city, bounced from school to school and lacked mental health professionals to help them through the trauma, he says.