A string of departures among detectives and low morale plague the New Orleans Police Department’s homicide unit, which has shrunk to its lowest staffing level in years just as murders continue to stack up, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. With two-and-a-half months left in 2016, most homicide detectives have already hit or exceeded their recommended caseload of six homicide investigations a year. Two shooting deaths last night pushed the total number of homicides in 2016 over last year’s 10-month tally. Those fatalities would mark this year’s 135th and 136th murders, compared with 134 murders by the end of last October.
The number of detectives investigating the deaths is down to 18, police spokesman Tyler Gamble said. That’s four fewer than the 22 the unit had in the first quarter of 2015, marking a six-year low. The low staffing worries justice advocates who said it can lead to fewer cases being solved, contributing to more street violence. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said when caseloads are too high, more homicides go unsolved, and “that’s when street justice kicks in.” Goyeneche said retaliatory homicides mostly occur in response to drug or gang-related crimes. If someone is willing to kill to protect territory or eliminate competition in the drug market and is not apprehended, he said, they are free to kill again.