After a weekend of bloodshed in New Orleans, Police Chief Warren Riley’s department is now focusing more on the city’s most violent criminals and less on the small-time offenders, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. His plan signals a major change in tactics and a marked departure from previous statements that the department would aggressively pursue even the lowest-level offenders. “We are focusing now on hard-core offenders,” Riley said. “We are slowly pulling away from the minor violations.”
Because so much of New Orleans’ violent crime surrounds the drug trade, Riley reshaped the major narcotics unit to aggressively target street-level drug dealers rather than their mid-level or kingpin suppliers. In late 2006, he spoke of this approach, calling it a return to “fundamental policing.” However, the continuing killings and the steady drumbeat of critics has apparently swayed the city’s top cop. In the case of vehicle checkpoints — a tactic he instituted in January — Riley said his officers will lay off “good-quality citizens,” people without criminal records. Forty-six people have been arrested on federal charges since federal agents were deployed in January to work alongside New Orleans officers.