For New Orleans, a city that long has struggled with one of the nation’s most alarming murder rates, the surge in killings so far this year has provided a jarring, blood-spattered reminder of the problem’s endurance, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The 35 murders through last Friday represent a 94 percent jump compared to the same period in 2014. Just as worrisome, the rise in deadly violence comes as the number of police homicide detectives is at its lowest in five years. That raises questions about the department’s ability to effectively handle the murder caseload.
At stake could be the city’s hope of extending a three-year decline in murders. The Homicide Section’s roster has shrunk by nearly a quarter, from 29 active detectives last year to 22. Another experienced detective plans to retire in May. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the non-profit watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, warned that the department’s “acute manpower crisis” is so widespread it affects every aspect of police operations. If more murders go unsolved, he said, emboldened killers could strike again. Or if no one is seen held accountable for a slaying, so-called street justice, including revenge killings, especially between rival gangs, could multiply the body count.