Officials say new crimefighting strategy is a step in the right direction

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by Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 11:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 25 at 11:43 PM

NEW ORLEANS - According to police, Harry "Mike" Ainsworth was the 19th person murdered in New Orleans this year.

The Good Samaritan was gunned down in Algiers Point while trying to stop a carjacking Wednesday morning. Hours later, city officials unveiled a new initiative a new strategy to fight crime.

It aims to raise the bond for gun charges, and expand electronic monitoring.

"Today we're talking about illegal gun possession, illegal gun possession, with offenders who have done this multiple times," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

According to city officials, 40 percent of those arrested for murder last year had at least one previous gun charge. Now the city is asking criminal and municipal court judges to take a close look at a strategy implemented in St. Louis.

The initiative is credited with reducing that city's murder rate by 20 percent last year.

The strategy asks judges to set a minimum $30,000 bond for gun charges. And, unlike in St. Louis, it asks judges, at their discretion, to require that those who make bond pay for their own electronic monitoring devices.

Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said the strategy is a step in the right direction.

"That is, I think, an indication to the community that there is a significant shift in the way the criminal justice system is going about problem-solving," said Goyeneche. "They're all sitting down crafting a solution to a community public safety problem, and this is the culmination of a couple of weeks worth of work."

But chief public defender Derwyn Bunton said, while he's glad the city is thinking outside the box, he's not so sure raising the minimum bond is the best way to solve crime issues.

"It's certainly not fair. It's a regressive system of incarceration," said Bunton. "And so you really need to allow judges discretion to take a look at who can come out, who can't."

"Our court has engaged in productive dialogue with the mayor and other stakeholders. The bonds that are set in each case will be reflective of the charge, prior criminal history of the arrested subject, and other statutory factors as set forth in the law," said Margaret Dubuisson, spokeswoman for Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, in a statement.

Meanwhile, officials gathered at Wednesday's press conference were hopeful the new approach will make the city a safer place to live.

"These are all part of our efforts of addressing murder across the spectrum," said Landrieu. "This bond proposal is but one tool to combat murder."

Sheriff Marlin Gusman runs the electronic monitoring program, in partnership with the city and the Crime Coalition. Gusman said 120 ankle bracelets are being used right now. A spokesman said that's at or near capacity.

The city has budgeted $700,000 to expand the program this year.

According to Goyeneche, the program costs $13 a day per person, about half as much as incarceration.

 

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