NEW ORLEANS — We've seen the alarming videos of carjackings in New Orleans. We've heard from frustrated and frightened victims.
Now, with NOPD carjacking data compiled exclusively by WWL-TV through a public records request, we have a much clearer picture of who is stealing the cars and where they are stealing them.
The statistics for 2021 – a record for carjackings in the city – show that juvenile suspects arrested outnumber adults by more than two to one. The data shows that 100 juveniles were arrested compared to 49 adults. And of the adults arrested, many were 18 to 21.
Anecdotal evidence had pointed to young offenders as the fuel behind the carjacking surge, but the extent is now documented.
Additionally, the data shows that about two-thirds of the stolen vehicles are quickly recovered. The numbers show vehicles recovered in at least 64 percent of the 253 total cases, which could be low as some police districts were still compiling their recovery totals.
“What that suggests is the motive was not to sell the car or bring it to a chop shop and salvage parts from it, it's transportation,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the non-profit watchdog group The Metropolitan Crime Commission.
That transportation, Goyeneche said, often carries young offenders to their next crime as part of a spree that can include robberies, thefts or additional carjackings.
“When the car gets too hot or it runs out of gas, they steal and carjack another car,” he said.
Leading the city in carjackings by a wide margin is eastern New Orleans, the 7th Police District, which was hit 74 times last year with a solve rate of 24 percent. A case is considered “solved” if the NOPD makes an arrest, issues an arrest warrant or identifies a perpetrator who has since died.
The second highest total was 47 in the 5th District, which covers Desire, the 9th Ward and parts of the 7th Ward.
At the other end of the spectrum, the fewest number of carjacking was eight in the 4th District, which comprises all of Algiers. The second-fewest was in the Eighth District, the French Quarter, Marigny and CBD, with 14.
Citywide, the solve rate was 43 percent. The best clearance rate was in the Second District, which covers much of Uptown, at 68 percent. The worst was the 5th District at 21 percent.
Car recoveries are much higher across the board, led by the 2nd District at 100 percent recovery, 25 cars in 25 cases, the records show. That was followed by the 3rd District, much of Lakeview and Gentilly, with a 93 percent recovery rate.
The age of the arrested offenders and high recovery rate leads SUNO criminologist John Penny to believe that most of the carjackings are impulsive crimes fueled by boredom, peer pressure and the perceived thrill of delinquency. He said the pattern does not show a high level of planning or sophistication.
“It tells you that they don't have a game plan for profiting off of what they're doing,” Penny said.
The youth of most of the offenders also reveals that any solutions should include families as much the criminal justice system, Penny said.
“It just begs us to look at what is going on with the family structure that we have in this city,” Penny said.