New Orleans Murder Rate Gets Even Worse

New Orleans has been submerged by a crime wave ever since the waters of Hurricane Katrina receded. Byron Pitts reports.
New York City could look back on 2007 as the year it recorded the lowest number of homicides in more than 40 years, while the number of murders increased in Washington, D.C., after years of decline.

New Orleans - the bloodiest city in the country in 2006 - got even bloodier in 2007, with 209 murders. That was 48 more than in 2006, when its 161 homicides put its murder rate far ahead of even such deadly cities as Gary, Indiana, and Detroit.

New Orleans population is currently thought to be 295,450, which would mean a rate of about 71 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Washington's homicide rate was about 30 per 100,000 people, still higher than those of New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, but lower than in Baltimore and Detroit.

A preliminary tally of recorded homicides in New York was 494 as of midnight Monday, compared with 596 for all of 2006, police said. But the number could change depending on if a 2007 crime is later reclassified, they said.

The tally for 2007 is the lowest number of killings since reliable record-keeping started in 1963.

Crime has plummeted since 1990 when homicides reached an all-time high of 2,224, making the city the murder capital of the U.S.

Experts have said that the decline in homicides in New York is due to computerized tracking of crime trends and tactics, such as flooding high-crime areas with police officers.

The figure for 2007 could be changed if a death that occurred in 2007 was later determined to be a homicide. The cutoff period for that is Jan. 15, said police spokesman Paul J. Browne.

In the country's capital, however, homicides rose 7 percent in 2007 after years of decline, and police attributed the increase in part to gang fights and drugs.

The city had recorded 181 killings as of late Monday, up from a 21-year low of 169 homicides in 2006. The number of killings had been dropping since 2002. Nonfatal shootings and other gun crimes also were up, according to preliminary police data.

The increase in violence comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments this year on whether the capital's 31-year ban on handgun ownership violates the Constitution. The case could produce the most in-depth examination in 70 years of the right to "keep and bear arms," which is held dear by many Americans.

Citywide, about 77 percent of the year's homicide victims were killed by gunfire. More than 80 percent of the victims were black males.

Despite the increase in killings, 2007 marked the fourth consecutive year of fewer than 200 homicides in Washington. The number of killings also is far lower than the numbers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when more than 400 people were slain annually as crack cocaine-related violence ravaged the city.