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137 murders and counting: New Orleans on pace to have fewest murders since 1971

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With just over two weeks left in 2018, New Orleans is on pace to see a significant drop in the number of murders for the year, and could mark the lowest number of killings the city has seen in nearly half a century.

As of Saturday, New Orleans police had investigated 137 murders this year. There were 151 murders in 2017 by the same date, and 169 in 2016 by Dec. 15, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reported .

If the current pace of murders continues, the city will end 2018 with 143 murders — a 47-year low. According to data from the City of New Orleans, the last time there were fewer than 150 murders was in 1971, when New Orleans had 116 murder victims.

Despite a potential drop in the murder count, if New Orleans continues the pace and ends the year with 143 murders, the city would still remain on a list of U.S. cities with the highest number of murders per capita. Ending the year with 143 murders would make New Orleans’ murder rate higher than Chicago’s in 2017, but lower than the rates of Baltimore, Detroit and Birmingham, Alabama, last year.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison attributed the reduction in murders — the second-straight year the number of murders in a year has decreased — to the department’s embrace of technology.

Harrison said new tools have made the department more efficient and helped them “go after” serial offenders using data to guide deployment strategies. When officers solve crimes committed by people who are shown by internal data to be responsible for much of the city’s violence, it helps prevent future crimes by removing repeat offenders from the streets, Harrison said. Arresting those suspects, he added, “sends a deterrent message to other would-be criminals, that NOPD has the capacity to find and capture them.”

The Real Time Crime Center, where footage from the city’s more than 300 crime cameras is stored, has helped police make arrests and compile solid cases against many suspected violent offenders, Harrison added. Technology initiatives implemented in recent years, such as allowing some offenses to be reported online and over the phone, account for about 10 to 15 percent of all reports taken. That frees up manpower, police spokesman Andy Cunningham said.

“The city of New Orleans, led by our mayor and certainly me, the chief, we’re all committed to making sure we have a very effective and efficient police department,” Harrison said. “Every opportunity we can find to make improvements for effectiveness and efficiency, we’re going to do that.”

Another factor helping police apprehend suspected violent offenders is cooperation from the public, the superintendent said. He attributed improved cooperation to a steady increase in public trust, which had been shattered by decades of civil rights abuses punctuated by Hurricane Katrina-era shootings of unarmed residents by officers.

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