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A Killer New Year 


  Following a bad year for murders in 2011 — 199 total, an increase of 14 percent from 175 in 2010 — the city of New Orleans has seen 13 violent deaths — including 12 murders and one fatal police shooting — in the first 13 days of the new year. Last week alone, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) responded to six murders — three from a quintuple shooting in eastern New Orleans that ended with the killing of the suspect by police — and a spate of non-fatal shootings that left more than a dozen injured.

  "Over the past 48 to 72 hours, there has been a continuation of the violence that's been plaguing this city for a long time," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a frequently testy press conference Friday.

  In response to questions as to whether the city has the police capacity to effectively respond to what the mayor has called a pervasive "culture of violence," Landrieu, who appeared with NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, Criminal Justice Commissioner James Carter and a number of other city officials, defended the department, citing quick response times and a sophisticated, data-driven approach to crime. "In the past few incidents, the New Orleans Police Department responded quickly and appropriately," Landrieu said. Serpas expanded on that point, detailing specific incidents from the past two weeks.

  Serpas said a drastically increased police presence in the "downtown core" for the 10-day span that included the Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans Saints-Detroit Lions playoff game and the BCS Championship did not affect the NOPD's ability to police neighborhoods. The chief said the NOPD's deployment plan guarantees that all neighborhood patrols are fully staffed before officers are routed to the Central Business District and the French Quarter.

  "We put 700 [police officers] in the downtown core," while hundreds of thousands of visitors were in town, Serpas said. "What do you think we should do?"

  NOPD has nearly 1,400 total officers, Serpas added. "The other 700 cops are working throughout the city."

  Asked whether the uptick in violence over the past two weeks has tainted national perception of the city, Landrieu replied, "Perception is reality, in some instances. No one has ever denied that New Orleans is a violent town." — CHARLES MALDONADO


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