NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The murder rate in New Orleans is the story that never ends.
"Murders are up this year compared to last year, and we’ve also seen an increase in aggravated assaults and aggravated batteries,” says Professor George Capowich of Loyola University’s Department of Sociology.
Putting a positive spin on a negative number, the New Orleans Police Department tweeted out this statistic:
“29% of all murders in #NOLA this year involved a gang member. That's down from 42% this same time last year. #NOPDCOMSTAT"
The NOPD was unable to provide a spokesperson for comment, but it did confirm these numbers: In New Orleans, the 2015 murder count so far is 98. Last year this time, it was 74.
Capowich says, "Even if the city is right that gang-involved murders are down, the fact that murders are up in some ways, it doesn't matter whether it’s group affiliated or not.”
Professor Capowich is also the local lead evaluator for a national program directed at reducing gang violence, an initiative called “Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods.”
The project has a two-part message: First, that violence won't be tolerated or taken lightly—and secondly, that choosing the path without crime will be rewarded. That's where Capowich says there is good news to report, regarding the positive programs offered to those who make that choice to leave crime behind.
"GED counseling, drug treatment, job training. If you take advantage of this, we're here to help you and the number of people taking advantage of those services seems to be up,” he says.
The professor says some long-term solutions need more time before they can be measured.
Meanwhile another challenge when it comes to labeling the recent NOPD tweet as a positive sign is the difficulty in defining modern day gangs.
"The stereotypical gang of Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles is really a thing of the past. Gangs are smaller, they’re less hierarchical, and they’re much more fluid, so people move in and out of groups.”
Meanwhile, WGNO did the math: 29 percent of 98 means approximately 28 homicides have involved a gang member so far this year… and 42 percent of 74 translates to 31 gang-related murders at this point last year.