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Murder, gun violence up in New Orleans

“There’s a culture war going on, and the police are caught smack in the middle of it,” said Dr. Peter Scharf, a criminologist with LSU Health.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Police are investigating at least a dozen shootings over the Fourth of July weekend and so far, no suspects have been named. Twelve shootings took place since the beginning of the recent holiday weekend, and those shootings claimed the lives of six people. The shootings are part of a violent trend hitting the rest of the country.

“Violent crime in terms of murder and gun violence is up, and we’re definitely seeing that in New Orleans,” said Jeff Asher, a crime analyst who consults with the New Orleans City Council on the issue.

Asher says since January, 87 people in New Orleans have been murdered. That compares to 64 murders this time last year - a 37% increase.

“It’s critical to remember that last year was the lowest year in murders that we’ve had since 1971, so it was only natural that we would see a spike in murders,” said Asher.

RELATED: 13 people shot, 4 die over 4th of July weekend in New Orleans

That said, a 37 percent increase in murders seems significant in any year, but especially during a pandemic.

“It’s not a good thing or an acceptable trend, but in terms of the historical trend it’s about average by New Orleans standards,” said Asher.

Asher says while gun violence and murders are up this year in New Orleans, property crime is down during the first half of 2020. Asher attributes that decrease to more people staying home during the pandemic, which limits the opportunity of crimes like burglary and car theft.

RELATED: Man dies after being shot in Seventh District of New Orleans

In addition to the recent violence in New Orleans, you have likely heard of the violence in other places like Chicago and Atlanta where shootings killed some children under the age of 10. Most of us are viewing or learning of these crimes through social media. Some videos have set off campaigns of shame and even a global movement for racial justice. But there’s push back on even that.

“Crime has been racialized and politicized, and we got to get back to sanity,” said Dr. Peter Scharf.

Dr. Scharf is a criminologist with LSU Health. He says we are witnessing an unsettled time, when pushes for defunding the police are clashing with calls for law and order.

RELATED: New Orleans police investigating two homicides Monday

“There’s a culture war going on, and the police are caught smack in the middle of it,” said Dr. Scharf.

Scharf says it is fair to ask how that culture war could affect police morale. In the meantime, most of their duties remain. Locally, that includes finding suspects in shootings that have killed six people in five days.

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