New Orleans police arrest people at a faster pace than before Hurricane Katrina, and focus too much on minor municipal and traffic offenses that detract from the pursuit of violent criminals, says a Metropolitan Crime Commission report described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. An analysis of District Attorney Eddie Jordan’s office shows it now pursues more misdemeanors than felonies, in comparison with before Katrina. The commission, a watchdog group, concluded that the police and prosecutors need to focus more of their limited resources on chasing serious criminals. For the police, that might mean issuing tickets only for minor traffic or municipal offenses, rather than jailing people. The report advises prosecutors to help police build better cases against criminals accused of felonies, particularly violent crimes.
Of 14,800 police arrests the first quarter of 2007, 7,585 — or 51 percent — were for traffic and municipal violations. Commission president Rafael Goyeneche called the focus on comparatively trivial offenses particularly troubling because it matches the pattern before Katrina, when 56 percent of all arrests in the first quarter of 2005 represented minor violations. Historically, such minor busts have done little to reduced the overall crime rate — particularly violent crime — and have the undesireable side effect of turning people in violent neighborhoods against the police department.