Reinforcing New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas’ assertion that the police department has focused too much on arresting people for minor offenses, a new report from the city’s Metropoltan Crime Commission shows that cops made more than 6,000 arrests in the first half of this year after stopping people wanted on minor out-of-parish warrants, such as unpaid traffic tickets, reports the New Orleans Times Picayune.
The single largest source of arrests was for outstanding warrants, with police logging 9,181 such arrests from January to June. Most were not for major felony crimes. The report shows that 69 percent of those, or about 6,300 arrests, were released from jail in less than a day. Those numbers are expected to shrink in the coming months, as the police department implements policy changes that will allow officers to give people wanted on these kinds of attachments a summons to appear in court instead of bringing them to jail. “We don’t want to lose the opportunity to hold people accountable. But if you can do a summons, let that be the first option,” Serpas said. Since 2007, the Crime Commission has monitored arrest patterns, as well as what happens to those arrests when the cases are taken up by the district attorney’s office. The group has concluded that too much police attention was focused on petty offenses, such as arresting people for municipal violations like criminal trespass or public urination. Arrests for municipal offenses have gone down by 21 percent since late 2009, as police leaders have emphasized to officers that they should issue summonses for these violations when appropriate.