Jun 14, 2023 - Politics

New Orleans mayor credits gang arrests for recent dip in murders

Illustration of crime scene tape reading CRIME SCENE and DO NOT CROSS over a dark background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

New Orleans officials are hopeful a recent downtick in murders is a sign of a less-violent future.

Driving the news: Two people were killed in the city last week — less than the average of about 4.5 victims a week so far in 2023, and far less than the 14 that were killed in the same week last year.

  • Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Wednesday attributed the recent slowdown to the arrests of least five juveniles who say they are members of the "No Hospital Gang."

Why it matters: New Orleans had at least 280 homicides last year, the most recorded in 26 years, according to city data.

  • The city also reclaimed the unwanted title of the country's murder capital, having the highest homicide rate of any large city in the U.S., with 70 homicides for every 100,000 residents.
  • A vast majority of the homicides this year — 97% — are from gun violence, according to NOPD.

By the numbers: So far, 114 homicides have been reported in New Orleans, which is down 17% from last year's count at this time, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a nonprofit that tracks crime stats in the city.

  • Nonfatal shootings are also trending a little lower, with 273 victims reported to police so far this year compared with 308 at this time last year, according to the MCC.

Of note: Carjackings are seeing the biggest drop, according to MCC, with reports down 44% compared to last year. However, auto thefts are up 158% compared with last year.

What she's saying: Cantrell on Wednesday highlighted NOPD's arrests of at least five juveniles who are currently in custody and call themselves members of the "No Hospital Gang."

  • "They don't want you to go to the hospital. They want you to die on the spot," Cantrell said during her weekly media update.
  • "It's something we all should be concerned about," she said.

Cantrell said she's reaching out to the families of the youths and asking for meetings.

  • "I'm determined to not allow these young people to negatively influence or impact other young people that we have at the [Juvenile Justice Intervention Center]," which is the parish's juvenile detention center.
  • She declined to release any additional information about the juveniles, saying the investigation is ongoing.
  • A New Orleans police spokesperson said there were juveniles arrested, but the department "cannot confirm that they are associated with any gangs."

The big picture: New Orleans still has a violence problem, and leaders say they are treating gun violence as a health crisis and launching mental health resources.

  • Cantrell said her administration is looking at mental health as one of the root causes for violence, homelessness, addiction and other struggles by residents.
  • The city relaunched the hospital-based violence intervention program earlier this month at University Medical Center's emergency department.
  • "While we treat physical injuries, our employees and providers feel strongly that we should also find ways to treat the emotional issues that go hand in hand with violence," said Charlotte Parent, vice president of business development at UMC, during the announcement.
  • The specialized mental health program aims to "disrupt cycles of retaliatory violence," in addition to assisting with healing from physical and emotional trauma.
  • Cantrell's administration has unveiled other resources too, including a program for public school students and for children exposed to gun violence.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from NOPD.

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