Violent crime down in New Orleans for first three months of 2013

Report shows overall crime up for first quarter

New Orleans police are reporting significant drops in several violent crime categories through the first quarter of 2013, although overall crime in the city has increased.

Police released the first quarter crime statistics on Wednesday, and they show decreases in murders, rapes, armed robberies and simple robberies through the first three months of 2013 compared with 2012.

However, those numbers also show increases in burglaries, and thefts, which created an overall increase in crime of about 2.2 percent, according to the statistics.

In a prepared statement, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas noted that violent crime in the city has dropped about 4.4 percent since he took over the department nearly three years ago. Homicides are down 3 percent, armed robberies are down 14 percent and aggravated assaults are down 9 percent in that period, he reported.

However, simple robberies, thefts and rapes have all increased significantly during that time period, according to the statistics. Police noted that the increase in rapes, which are up 61 percent compared with three years ago, is partially tied to corrections in how those crimes are classified. Serpas credited the drop in violent crime to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s efforts and the work of his officers.

“I am convinced that the reduction in overall crimes since May of 2010 shows that our accountability and crime-fighting strategies — as part of Mayor Landrieu’s ‘NOLA for Life’ plan — have made a difference,” Serpas wrote.

Through the first three months of 2013, police investigated 43 homicides compared with 45 in 2012. They also saw armed robberies decrease by nearly 22 percent and rapes drop by about 18 percent, according to the crime statistics. In total, police reported 662 crimes against people in 2013 compared with 723 over the same period in 2012.

However, increases in property crimes are driving the overall crime increase. Police investigated roughly 136 more property crimes this year compared with 2012, and that increase was concentrated in thefts and burglaries.

Serpas said the drop in violent crime is proof that the police department’s attempt to improve its relationship with city residents has been successful. A recent independent study showed resident satisfaction with the NOPD increasing, and Serpas said police have found that 90 percent of residents they’ve surveyed agree with the accuracy of the reports police filed.

Serpas said the NOPD plans to add officers this year with at least two or three classes of new recruits going through the police academy.

“We look forward to adding more officers to the roster this year with two or possibly three new classes of recruits,” Serpas wrote. “We’ll be a stronger department because of this and will be able to do more for the people we serve.”

New Orleans crime statistics mirror the numbers released by several law enforcement agencies in the metropolitan area last month. Several Jefferson agencies reported decreases or very slight increases in crime, but with violent crime numbers dropping. However, New Orleans’ first quarter homicide is still larger than most Jefferson Parish jurisdictions have for an entire year.

The data comes as the city and federal government work to try to select a new monitor for the wide-ranging federal consent decree the NOPD will begin complying with shortly. A final decision on that monitor is required by May 15.