What is the first city that comes to mind when you think of the city with the highest murder rate? For me, it’s Chicago. The cities that frequently make the news due to high murder rates and other violent crimes usually include Chicago, New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. However, a compilation of police data for the month of June from cities with populations of more than 200,000 was put together and the top 31 American cities with the highest murder rates might surprise you.
AH Analytics co-founder Jeff Asher listed the top cities with the highest murder rates per capita (or 100,000 residents) and the city that tops that list is New Orleans. Asher says that more light needs to be put on other cities in the South and Midwest instead of the usual ones that make headlines. The murder numbers per capita in other cities, like Birmingham, Alabama, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland, Rochester, New York, and Atlanta, for example, are higher or comparable to the more publicized cities.
New Orleans almost certainly had the nation's highest murder rate per 100k of any big city in the first half of the year. The below table includes cities 200k+ with available data through late June. pic.twitter.com/ZC268J0o2p
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) July 1, 2022
Keep in mind these murder numbers are only halfway through 2022. They may change as the year continues. Violence, generally speaking, has been on the rise.
“I think … you can see a trend in increased violence across our country as a whole,” Alabama Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Everett Johnson told Fox News Digital. “…Birmingham, just based off the per capita [murders], I think that falls in line with what’s going on with the rest of our country … for the past two or three years.”
In 2021, more than a dozen cities reported record homicide numbers, following a trend of violence that began in 2020.
For example, New Orleans recorded 145 murders as of June 30, putting it on pace for nearly 300 murders this year, which would put the city’s homicide rate at 74.12 per 100,000 population by the end of the year. That rate would dwarf Chicago’s 18.26 murders per 100,000 population, even though the Windy City recorded more murders in 2021 than it had in a quarter-century.
New Orleans would also rank 9th in homicides among major cities in the world that are not at war, according to 2018 data compiled by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexico City-based advocacy group. New Orleans saw murders rise from 119 in 2019 to 201 in 2020. That number continued to climb in 2021, reaching 218, an 83% increase over 2019 numbers.
“I can’t speak for the country, but people in Louisiana certainly know it’s one of the…most dangerous cities,” Darrell Basco, president of the Louisiana FOP, said, adding that what they see on the news and “experience personally” when they visit the city has made Louisianans aware of the violence in New Orleans.
Basco said part of the issue in Louisiana and other cities is “progressive-leaning” district attorneys. And cities are dealing with the defund the police movement that demonizes police officers. It is difficult for many cities to recruit and retain police. Almost all of the top 10 cities on the list are led by Democratic politicians. They also suffer from some of the highest poverty rates.
Keeping the focus on New Orleans, since it is at the top of the list, it should be noted that one factor in its troubles in retaining police officers is due to a federal consent decree that has been in place for a decade. The police force is “hemorrhaging”.
Last month, Claude Schlesinger, a retired police lieutenant and now lawyer for Council of Fraternal Order of Police New Orleans, said the force is “hemorrhaging,” according to New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU.
“It’s awful, I think we’ve lost over 80 officers so far this year,” said Schlesinger. “We’re down from 1,740 in the time of Katrina; we’re close to 900 right now.”
The federal consent decree was signed by former Mayor Mitch Landrieu (now Biden’s Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator) and the DOJ in 2012, during the Obama administration. It was deemed necessary at the time due to a 2011 federal report that exposed widespread constitutional failures and corruption on the force. The consent decree guides reforms. In April, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan said she hoped to put NOPD on the path to ending federal oversight in June. She said that may include less monitoring over two years. However, since April nothing has changed and the mayor is left in the dark.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell will petition a federal judge soon to end the federal consent decree. She said that it would improve officer morale and stop the “hemorrhaging” of officers. She also claims that the consent decree threatens the safety of police officers.
“The consent decree handcuffs our officers by making their jobs harder, pestering them with punitive punishment and burying them with paperwork that is an overburden,” said Cantrell as she was flanked by NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson and Director of Public Safety and Homeland Security John Thomas.
It won’t be the first time for a petition to remove the consent decree to be used. An earlier request in 2020 failed. Since nothing has come of Judge Morgan’s “hopes” that NOPD might be ready for less federal oversight, it is unclear if a new petition by the mayor will produce a different outcome this time. Cantrell said that the smaller number of officers on the police force threatens the safety of those on the job.
“It’s gotten us in a situation…that I’m concerned about our officers’ ability to protect themselves,” Cantrell said. “And if our officers cannot protect themselves, then there’s no way that we can even expect them to protect us.”
The mayor and Ferguson said the rank-and-file told them in blunt terms that they’ve been beaten down by a lack of support in the community, including from media and elected officials, and that has led “some to rethink the profession.”
The defund the police movement has led to some dire consequences for those in public safety. A lack of respect for law enforcement adds to morale problems.
There are two sides to every story and an attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, Eric Hessler, argues that the mayor is blaming the consent decree when the real problems lie within the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau. A recent survey commissioned by NOPD found that pay, discipline, and an unfair promotion system were the reasons for officers leaving the force.
“When she said the policies are determined by the consent decree, the problem is they’re investigated by PIB, and those investigations are unfair, they’re biased, and they’re corrupted by a PIB administration who is left untouched,” Hessler said.
“All I’ve ever heard is criticism of the administration and the mayor,” Hessler said. “If anybody feels anything towards the police officers, it’s sympathy for having to work in these conditions.”
We’ll see what happens next. Charges of corruption are nothing new for New Orleans. City government in the Crescent City has always has a dicey reputation. In the meantime, police officers are left to do their jobs without all the support they need.