New Orleans is taking new steps to deal with a longstanding crime problem: its high homicide rate. Adopting a program from Milwaukee, the city is setting up a commission to analyze past killings and try to prevent violence, says the New York Times. Businessmen have pledged to find work for people returning from prison. A few hundred volunteers have begun training to set up neighborhood watches or become mentors. It has also borrowed a Chicago program that recruits people who have experience in violent neighborhoods and sends them out to counsel and intervene.
City officials have been pushing what they call a public health approach, a “paradigm shift,” they say, in a city that has been known for soaring arrest and incarceration rates. There were 51 homicides per 100,000 residents there last year, compared with less than 7 per 100,000 in New York or 23 in similar-size Oakland, Calif. The killers and their victims are overwhelmingly young black men. Most victims and offenders had prior contacts with the police, often for violent crimes. Less than a quarter were listed as having a steady job. Many killings in New Orleans are a result of conflicts and vendettas among small, loosely organized groups. Only about half the homicide cases are cleared.