Dominic Massa /EyewitnessNews |

A new report from a coalition of New Orleans civic, neighborhood and business groups says the city is making progress when it comes to improving the criminal justice system, but more needs to be done to lower the number of murders.

Since 2010, the coalition known as Forward New Orleans, made up of more than 30 different groups, has issued regular progress reports on how it feels city leaders are responding to a platform of issues that includes crime, blighted housing, city finances, infrastructure and economic development.

'Though much work remains, there is a rational basis for optimism that the City is progressing
toward an effective criminal justice system,'the report says in its executive summary.

The survey gives mostly good marks in terms of crimefighting progress, except in the area of 'Funding and Transparency,' where it said there has been 'insufficient progress.'

'The City has not yet implemented a much-needed integrated strategic planning process, but the 2013 budget includes actions predictive of an ability to execute it,' the report said.

'The Administration must define and mandate transparent and uniform financial reporting across all criminal justice agencies. Uniform reporting is a foundation for success,'the report said. It also acknowledged that funding concerns will remain an issue, with the New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Prison under massive federal consent decrees.

'On the consent decrees....we urge compliance but caution the Administration to further explore the most cost-effective means of achieving each objective. We call for reasonableness from the Department of Justice in approving modes of execution.'

The group also calls for an expansion of the Hot Spot Community Policing and NOLA for Life programs, an increase in the number of police recruit classes. It commends the mayor and police chief for improvements to police facilities, technology, juvenile justice initiatives, and public engagement.

In other areas, The Forward New Orleans report did offer praise to city officials for reducing the number of blighted properties. But the coalition said it is disappointed by the absence of some sort of neighborhood-based code enforcement strategy.

It also offered praise and marks of 'good progress' when it comes to city finance, economic development, city services and infrastructure, city contracting, and public education.

To read the full report, click here.

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