NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department’s crime statistics for 2013 show a major improvement in the murder rate, but they also show a significant increase in rape, robbery and theft.
The drop in murders, from 193 in 2012 to 156 in 2013, is a major victory for New Orleans' beleaguered criminal justice system.
But violent crime is still up slightly, a quarter of 1 percent, including 40 more rapes reported last year.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that's actually a positive.
“I think that's a reflection of the change of leadership in the sex crimes unit that went from what they used to do is talk people out of reporting a crime to what we do now is we talk about how we can prove this crime happened,” Serpas said.
But questions remain about how the NOPD is counting crimes. A legislative audit last fall found serious crimes were downgraded. And a separate city inspector general probe found that 177 French Quarter thefts were misreported as "lost or stolen items."
Serpas changed that policy last month, but the 2013 numbers still reflect the old policy.
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is now auditing the whole Unified Crime Reporting process, starting with rape.
“I know there have been a lot of questions, challenges even,” Quatrevaux said. “Various internal ratios and things like that. But we'll find out. That's why we're doing the audits. We'll know what kind of accuracy we have when we're finished.”
Another area of concern is shootings without victims, such as one outside Saint Peter Claver School last month that was reported as vandalism because only cars were hit. Neighbors were outraged.
“If we're trying to measure the true rate of danger from, say, gunshots, I think we need to do more than just homicide,” Quatrevaux said. “We probably need to collect those shootings as well.”
Serpas said shootings are not supposed to be reported as violent crimes unless a victim is identified.
But he's added regular meetings about shootings with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office to make sure reports are changed if detectives find a person was targeted or hit.