Statistics belie this weekend's violence in New Orleans

Despite the violent weekend, a local criminologist is heralding the fight against murder and violence in New Orleans.

Dr. Peter Scharf, LSU professor of criminology, claims New Orleans is becoming a safer city, estimating that the number of murders in New Orleans this year could be the lowest number recorded since 1971.

"Last year, we had 146 murders. In my best estimate, this year we have a chance of ending up with about 100 murders, which would be astronomic."

He says this past weekend's violence is not indicative of this year, as a whole, in New Orleans. He admits, however, that we still have a long way to go. 100 murders this year would put us at 25 homicides per 100,000 residents...still in the top ten in the United States.

But, he says the NOPD is now preventing and solving more crimes by analyzing the patterns before anything happens. He says the risk of being killed in gun violence or armed robbery has been significantly reduced. And, law enforcement agencies, nationwide, are taking note.

"It's interesting," says Scharf. "In talking to police leaders across the country...they want to learn from the NOPD. In the old days, they wanted to run from the NOPD. This department went from the poster child of everything wrong to a model."

Scharf has long been one of the NOPD's harshest critics. But he says he likes the trend that he's seeing.

"From the last four years, from 2016 to today, the murder rate is dropping, and very dramatically so,"

Scharf says the police have become more effective by gaining the public's confidence and becoming more analytical in the approach to crime-fighting.

"It's community trust, and it's trying to analyze where the crime problems are, where the violent offenders are, and moving to do something before they kill somebody. The worst way to solve a murder is to wait for it to happen and solve the case. The best way is to intervene prior to an occurrence."

Scharf says a major improvement at the NOPD is the increase in computer capacity, automation of records and data analytics. 

"They're much more analytic than any group that I've seen at the NOPD in the last 30 years."

"And, people are starting to trust the police. In the old days, they'd say 'Call the police? Are you crazy?'  Now, it's 'I'm going to call the police and let them try to figure this one out.'."