NEW ORLEANS -- Fewer police officers equals fewer arrests in New Orleans, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Last year, the troop strength dropped below 1,200 officers for the first time in decades.
"It would be one thing if we were just down a few dozen officers, but we're down about 400 officers," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. "A 36-year low in staffing for the police department."
The crime commission's annual "Criminal Justice System Accountability Report" indicates that the NOPD made 5,734 felony arrests last year. That's a 13 percent drop in the number of arrests since 2010.
The crime commission says the reduction is not a result of fewer reported crimes -- that number actually increased by 15 percent over the same period of time.
"People are feeling the real police manpower crisis when they pick the phone and they dial 911 and they have wait a half hour or an hour for a response," said Goyeneche. "If there's that type of lag, it diminishes the time for an arrest."
New Orleans anti-crime activist Nadra Enzi said people across the city don't feel safe.
"At days end, not enough cops are staying and not enough would-be cops are applying to this department under current leadership," Enzi said.
According to the report, NOPD officers are having greater success when they do make a felony arrest. Their arrest to conviction rate has increased from 20 percent to 45 percent over the past five years. That's compared to the national rate of 54 percent.
"What's happened is now that there is a relationship between police and prosecutors that didn't exist," said Goyeneche.
"Now, they're working together," said Enzi. "I think that's something we can all be happy about."
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas released a statement saying, "For the past four years, the NOPD has adopted policies to use summonses when appropriate in lieu of arrests. This practice holds people accountable for their actions and allows officers to spend more time patrolling our neighborhoods. Overall, arrests continue to go down and convictions are getting better. Our officers use their best discretion to put the right people in jail and will continue to focus their attention on the most dangerous and violent offenders."