NEW ORLEANS -- Murders and shootings are on the rise again in New Orleans after a three-year dip, and Sunday’s mass shooting on Bourbon Street has frustrated city leaders trying to come up with new ways to keep tourist hotspots safe.
However, data analyzed by WWL-TV Crime Analyst Jeff Asher suggest the shooting that killed one and injured nine early Sunday at Bourbon and Iberville streets is an anomaly and the city’s enhanced crime-fighting efforts in the French Quarter and other tourist areas like the Central Business District and Faubourg Marigny are already working.
Shootings on Bourbon Street may bring lots of negative national attention, but they are extremely rare. There have been only four of them in the last five years, and a whole calendar year passed between the shooting of a bouncer on Bourbon Street on Nov. 28, 2015, and Sunday’s incident.
Since July 1, 2016, there have been four shootings in NOPD’s 8th District, which covers the French Quarter, CBD and Marigny. Over that same span, Asher counts 57 shootings in the 5th police district, which includes the 7th Ward, St. Roch and the 9th Ward. That’s the grand total of all the shootings in the 8th District over the last five years, combined.
“The main problem in terms of New Orleans gun violence is not in the tourism areas, it's in New Orleans East, it’s in the St. Roch, the 7th Ward area that have really been hit hard by the gun violence,” Asher said.
Put another way, Asher questions the need for more security measures on Bourbon Street: “We've had 470 shootings in New Orleans in the last year and if you stopped every single one of the Bourbon Street shootings we would have had 469 shootings in the last year.”
Bishop Tom Watson, minister of Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries based in Uptown, questions why the same attention isn’t paid to the rash of shootings across town.
“We have people who live every day in precariousness, uncertainty. At the end of the day, the whole city is unsafe,” said Watson, an outspoken critic of the NOPD’s crime-fighting methods.
He said dedicating State Police and private security patrols to augment NOPD in the French Quarter is unfair to the residents who fear for their safety on a daily basis in the neighborhoods.
“Is it all about a dollar? Keeping folks safe so they can keep coming in, spending money?” he said. “To me, that would be the elephant in the room. That's the undercurrent, that hey, we don't want anything impacting these economic dollars.”
While shootings in the main tourist areas are down, the trends citywide are not good. After three straight years of lower murders and shootings, there were more shootings in 2016 through Nov. 27 (428) than through the same point in a bloody 2011 (426).
The number of murders so far this year (163 by Asher’s count) is still well off the pace of 2011 and 2012 (183 and 170, respectively), but far beyond the lower rates we’ve seen since 2013. In fact, the 163 murders through Nov. 27, 2016, is more than the total for all of 2013 (156) or 2014 (150) and just one shy of the 2015 total (164).