There were 30 murders in New Orleans last April, the city’s deadliest month of 2003. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the New Orleans Police Department regrouped that month, determined to reverse the tide in a battle it appeared to be losing. The murder toll in the first four months of 2003 reached 99, 58 percent more than the same period in 2002.
Police Superintendent Eddie Compass and Deputy Chief of Operations Warren Riley decided that letting the city’s eight police districts address the murder problem on their own wasn’t working. A new task force found that 42 percent of the city’s homicides occurred in seven of the city’s 190 square miles. “It was determined that we would throw everything we had into attacking that area,” Riley said.
District captains also were asked to identify the most dangerous felons in their neighborhoods and take them off the street. The city found $4.8 million for testing and training designed to boost the police force by 75 officers in 2004, and enough to give every officer a $2,000 raise in July.
Once the target area was mapped, Compass and Riley’s orders were succinct: Round up guns and the bad guys who use them; bust the dealers;
Root out the killers. The common denominator to the criminal elements in control of the target areas was the viciousness with which they enforced their stranglehold.
Operation Full Court Press was successful, the numbers show. From January to April 2003, there were 42 murders reported in the zone. But in the next four months, from May to August 2003, the number dropped to 26, a decrease of more than a third. The city had 7 percent fewer killings in July, August and September compared with the same three months in 2002. By year’s end, the department had made more than 13,000 arrests since April and taken more than 200 guns off the streets. “We feel as though the momentum has shifted,” Riley said. “We are taking control of the streets.”