New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas told the City Council he cannot promise a drop in the city’s sky-high murder total, no matter what inducements they offer, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “If we give you another 200 police officers, you can’t tell us by what percentage you might be able to reduce the murder rate?” Councilman Jon Johnson asked. “I don’t think anybody could tell you that,” Serpas replied.
“Previous chiefs said it,” Johnson said, apparently referring to former Superintendent Richard Pennington’s vow in the mid-1990s to cut the city’s murder rate in half. He achieved the goal by 1999. Serpas reiterated that the low-hanging fruit of homicide-reduction has long been picked and that quelling the bloodshed will require reversing deep-seated social problems. Among the key facets of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s new NOLA For Life murder-reduction initiative are conflict-resolution courses, increased mental health services, and new programs to help residents return to the community after completing a jail sentence. Serpas said he could use 1,775 officers, compared with his current complement of 1,317.