NEW ORLEANS - Are new crime fighting strategies underway working? Chief Ronal Serpas said statistics out Friday are promising. But some experts say a closer look paints a different picture.
The New Orleans Police Department released statistics Friday showing overall crime is up about one percent in the first half of this year compared to last, despite new crime fighting strategies. But Serpas said the numbers are actually good signs.
"Think about where we were at the end of '11, it was up 10 percent for the whole year," said Serpas.
Serpas said a nearly six percent drop in overall crime in the second quarter of this year compared to last shows the city is moving in the right direction.
"I don't think there's any question that we spent all of '11 rebuilding and putting in place the plans that we needed. Now we're starting to execute them and I think we're seeing exactly what we wanted to see," said Serpas. "I am confident that by the end of the year crime will be down."
But Tulane criminologist Peter Scharf, Ph. D, said that doesn't paint the whole picture.
In a news release Friday, the NOPD pointed to an eight percent decrease in murders in the first half of 2012 compared to last year. But murders rose 20 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. And after a bloody July, the total number of killings at the time of this writing was 121, surpassing the 117 lost this time last year.
"If this is good I don't know what bad would look like," said Scharf. "It is simply not a victory."
There were 174 murders in 2009, the year before Serpas took office. There were 175 in 2010. In 2011, that number was up to 200, according to FBI statistics. And Scharf said, if murders this year continue at the same rate, New Orleans is on track to top last year.
"I'd prefer frankly, some serious self introspection and staring at the numbers to figure out what's going on, rather than congratulating yourself," said Scharf.
Serpas said the reasons behind New Orleans climbing murder rate are complex.
"There's a lot of reasons that we all are trying to understand. NOLA for Life kind of packages those reasons in a way that we can all come together and do something about it," said Serpas, referring to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's strategy to curb killings in New Orleans.
Statistics from the uniform crime report shows crimes against persons are up 15 percent from January to June of this year compared with the same time frame last year. But it's up only half a percentage point in the second quarter compared to last.
Rape is down 15 percent overall this year. Meanwhile, armed robbery is up 17 percent so far this year, though it fell eight percent in the second quarter.
Simple robbery and assault are both up this year.
Meanwhile, property crime is down overall. There was a 1.77 percent decrease in the first six months of the year, including a seven percent decrease when comparing the second quarter of 2012 to 2011.
The number of burglaries saw the biggest decrease- more than 20 percent in the first six months of the year, and more than 25 percent in the second quarter.
"Really what's making me excited is that the crimes that are most reported by a people in a community, burglaries and auto thefts, they're going down, and that's usually a very healthy sign that we're beginning to make a turn," said Serpas.
Chief Ronal Serpas said officers made 18 percent more arrests in the first half of this year.
"Our officers are actually making a lot better decisions in 2012 on who to arrest and when to arrest them," said Serpas. "The officers are not arresting those people we were wasting our time on before, we believe."