New Orleans copies Milwaukee's homicide review model

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by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on February 3, 2012 at 7:42 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 3 at 8:05 PM

MILWAUKEE -- It has been a violent start to a new year in New Orleans. The city is averaging nearly a murder a day since the beginning of 2012.

"Perfect policing doesn't stop a young man who grew up his whole life, who's angry and who dropped out of education and who is in and out of trouble, who decides to kill someone he knows," said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

Supt. Serpas says knowing the trigger points and how to prevent them can help drive down the number of killings in a city with a murder rate more than 10 times the national average.

To that end, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a new crime-fighting program that creates a new task force of law enforcers and community leaders to review and assess every murder.

The city's criminal justice and health commissioners talked about the initiative at a recent city council meeting.

"Part of the Mayor's Strategic Command to Reduce Murder actually involves social service agencies, community based organizations, various nonprofits and citizens to actually give fresh eyes on this particular problem," said Criminal Justice Commissioner James Carter.

"How can we sort out if there are particular issues around mental health or substance abuse or economic opportunity or education or are there levers that we can pull that will make a difference in peoples lives," said Health Commissioner Karen Desalvo, MD.

Milwaukee created the first homicide review panel six years ago when murder spiked in that city.

Police Chief Ed Flynn says the panel gave his department a jump start in understanding the problems on the streets.

"Police have always collected data," said Flynn. "What they've been short on is analysis. Homicide review can provide a level of analysis that many police departments have not historically had. If you have good analysis, connected to trustworthy data, you are going to develop high impact responses."

In New Orleans, action teams will meet every month to help identify risk factors and implement intervention strategies.

Police, prosecutors, social service agencies and community groups will have a seat at the table.

"What is a law enforcement view of the event and the data that it captures," Serpas asked. What would be a public education piece? What would be a public health piece about this? What would be the conditions of the neighborhood?

The strategic command will include a team that springs into action immediately after a murder to assist witnesses and family members of the victim.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says for homicide review to work, it can't just be a law enforcement initiative.

"Try to get the community involved in this," said Barrett. "Try to get the community leaders, particularly from those neighborhoods where the violence is the most serious."

Milwaukee leaders caution their counterparts in New Orleans not to oversell homicide review.

They say it's not an end, but a beginning to a process that over time can give the police department and other stockholders the tools to identify those root causes of murder.

For now the Mayor's Strategic Command to Reduce Murder will study violent crime in three high crime areas: Central City; St. Roch and the Upper Ninth Ward and parts of New Orleans east.
 

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