From July through September, murderers killed 53 people in New Orleans, an increase of more than 36 percent over the previous three months, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. As the city has repopulated in the months since Hurricane Katrina, the murder rate has steadily increased. Police Superintendent Warren Riley noted that the number of people killed in the third quarter of 2006 was 22 percent under than the same period for 2005. In those months, 68 people were murdered. That includes September 2005, when the city emptied out almost completely.
Murders are cited as the best gauge for crime in post-flood New Orleans, because the virtual collapse of the Police Department hampered its ability to collect statistics on crimes that didn’t leave bodies behind. With the New Orleans population in dispute — the lowest estimates put it at about 180,000, the highest at more than 250,000 — it’s difficult to measure what the homicide rate means. With a population so reduced — pre-Katrina New Orleans was home to about 450,000 people — some analysts have said they would expect to see a much steeper drop in murders. The overall rate of violent crime did not dramatically spike from the second quarter of 2006 to the third quarter, a time when presumably people were returning to the city. The statistics show a 7 percent increase.