NEW ORLEANS — More overtime for police and more collaborative efforts with federal law enforcement agencies are among the steps New Orleans police chief Michael Harrison said are being taken to crack down on violent crime in the city.
Harrison's news conference Tuesday came as the city's annual murder rate is on the rise. With more than 100 homicides so far this year, New Orleans is on pace to surpass the 150 murders recorded in 2014. And, although Harrison said non-fatal shootings are down 20 percent so far this year, the brazenness of some of those shootings has some on edge.
Police said there were no injuries when as many as 20 gunshots were fired last week in a gunfight near the French Quarter. Two people were hurt after gunfire broke out Monday at a downtown intersection near busy Canal Street. And the problem was driven home again hours after the news conference when police reported that a teenager was killed and a 4-year-old was shot at a home in eastern New Orleans.
Harrison said overall crime in the city is down: Department statistics show that it dropped roughly 8 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year. Second quarter figures are being compiled but are expected to show a similar quarter-to-quarter decrease, he said.
He also touted the success of a multi-agency unit assembled to combat gangs in 2012. "We've indicted 106 gang members from 11 different gangs," Harrison said.
"That progress is good but we realize we have a long way to go."
The news conference included representatives from Louisiana State Police, and federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshal's Office; and the U.S. attorney's office. Each promised a seamless effort with New Orleans police to fight drug- and gang-related violence.
"There is no daylight between DEA and the New Orleans Police Department and Louisiana State Police and ATF and the FBI," said DEA agent Keith Brown.
Harrison also said a New Orleans Police Department unit involved in combatting gang activity, as well as the multi-agency gang unit consisting of federal state and local agents would step up efforts, although he gave few details.
Help from outside agencies has been needed.
The number of city police officers has declined over the year from more than 1,600 to fewer than 1,200. State police have been beefing up city patrols at various times. Harrison said Tuesday that 27 recruits will be completing field training and hitting the streets this week. He said two recruit classes are underway. And he said he is authorizing more overtime spending to pay for police patrols.