With a nearby surveillance camera recording, a young man emerged from New Orleans’ Bienville Street in the middle of the afternoon last week and traded gunfire with a fleeing car two blocks from a police district station and the bustle of the French Quarter, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Four days later, shell casings – some of them from an AK-47 assault rifle – littered another street after a gun battle that left two suspected shooters wounded and in police custody. About 24 hours later, 17-year-old Gerald Morgan was gunned down in a mid-afternoon exchange of gunfire outside his family’s eastern New Orleans home, leaving a 4-year-old relative wounded in the arm.
These are the kinds of high-profile shootings capable of eliciting outrage over the seemingly contemptuous nature of those involved. Understanding why they happen, and how to stop them, is a matter of debate among criminal justice experts. “These situations where you’re likely to get caught and you still do it anyway – are they examples of extreme risk taking, or are they calculated?” asked Peter Scharf, a criminologist at Lousiana State University’s School of Public Health. With a well-documented staff shortage in the New Orleans Police Department, Scharf said some shooters may be willing to take their chances with daytime attacks. “We’re seeing these incidents because you have three or four (police officers) in a district, and criminals are figuring out the probability of anyone encountering them is minimal,” he said. “And that’s what scares the living crap out of me.”