After 29 homicides in 31 days, the New Orleans Police Department has added 21 investigators to its homicide unit, effectively doubling its size and spreading out a crushing case load, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The department’s current stable of about 25 homicide detectives each carried double the recommended number of cases, six per year. For at least the next two months, district detectives — who handle nonfatal crime investigations in their respective regions of the city — will handle homicide probes within their territory as well.
If current trends hold, the police look to investigate about 207 murders this year in New Orleans. At that point, each of the unit’s detectives would be juggling 16 to 18 cases each: about three times the nationally recommended caseload. The department’s homicide clearance rate is running near 46 percent, an improvement since the months after Hurricane Katrina. Police consider a case cleared when they make an arrest, identify a suspect — even if the suspect remains at large — or when their suspect dies, often in a retaliatory killing, known as clearing a case “by exception.” Clearances often don’t result in convictions, partly because of problems faced by prosecutors rather than police.