New Orleans has the nation’s highest per capita murder rate. Most of the killings are concentrated in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. NPR says Mayor Mitch Landrieu is launching a program aimed at cracking what he describes as a deeply rooted culture of violence. Victims complain that a failed criminal justice system has left the streets to vigilante justice, with innocent residents caught in the crossfire.
Landrieu’s “NOLA for Life” combines stepped-up law enforcement with intervention programs that have been used in other cities — for instance, the Cease Fire model that attempts to cool retaliation killings. The mayor is also turning to the U.S. Justice Department, using task forces of federal agents to target high-crime areas. “The first thing is, stop the shooting,” he says. “The second thing is, make sure you spend a lot of money on prevention.” Landrieu is not the first mayor of New Orleans to tout a new approach to quell the city’s violence. “Every time it’s a real violent situation here, another plan comes out,” says Tamara Jackson, a victims’ advocate. “We’ve been getting a number of plans, forever and a day — and it’s just not working.”