The number of murders in New Orleans continued to decline through the first half of the year, albeit at a slower pace than the substantial drop last year, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The figures are on track for a third consecutive year of decreases in a city that has long struggled with one of the nation’s worst murder rates. Police reported 70 murders in the first six months of this year, 8 percent fewer than 2013’s midyear total of 76. Recent violence increased the murder count to 92 as of Thursday morning, but that’s still on pace to end the year below the 156 murders in 2013.
City leaders credit an anti-gang task force and social programs launched less than two years ago, but they wondered if the positive effects will be long-lasting. The downward trend has been eclipsed at times by outbursts of deadly violence and multiple-victim shootings that made national headlines, including killings on Bourbon Street and the Lower 9th Ward this summer. The recent surge comes as police force attrition continues, and during a leadership change after the sudden retirement of Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas this week. Criminologist Peter Scharf wondered if the downward trend in murders is sustainable. “There have been positive changes,” he said, adding that an estimated 140 to 150 murders for 2014 appears to be “a cautious guess.” He said, “the rise in murders in the past 30 days makes even the most ardent supporters of the city’s efforts fearful of a reversal of fortune.”