Fewer people happy with NOPD but more feel safe, survey finds

NEW ORLEANS -- Fewer people in the city are happy with the New Orleans Police Department overall but more feel safer in their own neighborhood, according to a new survey.

Overall satisfaction with the New Orleans Police Department is at 51 percent, a drop of 13 percentage points from last March, according to the New Orleans Crime Coalition’s annual survey.

Meanwhile, satisfaction with how the NOPD handles violent crime plummeted 20 percentage points to 39 percent since last year, the survey found. That was likely due to an increase in the murder rate when the survey of 601 adults 18 and older was conducted Sept. 5 to Sept. 7, according to the Crime Coalition.

“High performing police departments in other cities typically score no lower than 70 percent citizen satisfaction ratings,” said Loyola University professor Michael Cowan, chairman of the Crime Coalition. “We should expect nothing less.”

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a prepared statement that the survey was conducted before his department could publicize a drop in the number of homicides this year compared to last year.

“The impact those positive developments had on public safety and perception of the police cannot have been reflected in this data, and may have painted a different picture,” Harrison said in the statement.

“Perception is very different from reality in some instances,” Harrison continued. “As the report notes, dissatisfaction tends to correlate with a rise in murders.”

Harrison said the murder rate and violent crime overall have begun to decrease. The homicide rate is 6.25 percent below where it was this time last year. “Murders are down, but that’s not immediately reflected in public understanding,” Harrison said.

Cowan recognized that factor but also pointed out that results in several other areas are up compared to 2016.

“Not only are we seeing a significant feeling of safety in respondents’ own neighborhoods, but for the first time, we’re seeing a majority feel safe visiting areas outside of their own neighborhoods.”

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed said they feel safe in their own neighborhood, a slight increase from 78 percentage points last year.

"The fact that 82 percent of citizens feel safe in their neighborhood validates the relentless hard work (of the NOPD)," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a prepared statement.

The survey also found that 63 percent of adults are satisfied with the NOPD’s performance in their own neighborhood.

Landrieu said that might be due to efforts to make police more visible across the city.

"Compared to when we came into office, the NOPD is now better paid, better trained, better managed, and far better equipped to make our city safer," he said.

And for the first time since August 2013, 51 percent of those surveyed said they feel safe visiting neighborhoods outside of their own, according to the survey. One outlier, though, was Algiers, where 60 percent of those surveyed said they do not feel safe outside of their neighborhood.

Those in Algiers also had lower marks when asked about police performance in their neighborhoods. The survey found 44 percent of people were happy with that, a steep drop from 77 percent last years. Dissatisfaction rose from 19 percent to 37 percent from last year.

Greg Rusovich, a member of the Crime Coalition, said a number of gun-violence incidents in Algiers ahead of the survey is likely to blame for the numbers there. ""Clearly, when violent crime goes up, the satisfaction goes down," he said.

Across the river in the 8th District -- which is made up of the French Quarter, Marigny, Central Business and Warehouse District -- satisfaction with police performance rose from 66 percent to 79 percent, while dissatisfaction fell from 25 percent for 14 percent compared to last year.

The survey also found that 64 percent of those in the 8th District feel comfortable leaving their neighborhoods, while 36 percent do not feel safe leaving their neighborhood.

Satisfaction remains high among those who have had interaction with officers -- 71 percentage points -- but that interaction with police is down 12 percentage points.

The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

The full survey can be found here.

WWL-TV reporter Paul Murphy contributed to this report.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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