In an extraordinary move usually reserved for natural disasters, a detachment of at least 100 Louisiana National Guard soldiers and 60 State Police troopers will be sent to New Orleans today in an effort to quell the rising tide of bloodshed in the city, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The wave of violence that culminated Saturday with the shocking murder of five youths. The deployment, only a few months after the Guard pulled its last post-Hurricane Katrina units out of the city, follows requests from law enforcement officials, Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council, who are alarmed at statistics that indicate the murder rate in recent weeks has shot above the city’s pre-storm pace.
Nagin and council members also are likely to re-establish a juvenile curfew, a measure that was credited with helping to curb the city’s top-in-the-nation murder rate in the mid-1990s. Councilman Oliver Thomas christened the equally dangerous offshoot of Hurricane Katrina: “Hurricane Crime.” Gov. Kathleen Blanco called Saturday’s killings “shocking” as she approved the city’s request, which had been in the works for weeks, yesterday. The city initially asked for 300 Guard soldiers and 60 troopers; the Blanco administration said the deployment will build up to that number in the coming weeks. The added troops will have the power to arrest and detain suspects and to use deadly force if necessary. “They will be armed, locked and loaded, and prepared,” said Police Superintendent Warren Riley. As of last night, 53 people had been murdered this year in the city, well below the more than 134 killed in the first six months last year but at or above the same pace as before Katrina, depending on what population estimate is used.