As of New Year's Eve, the city's murder total sat at 209, making it again a top contender for the country's highest per-capita murder rate, a dubious title New Orleans held in 2006. A definitive per-capita rate for murders and all crimes remains elusive, because of varying estimates of the post-flood city's still-changing population. But even by the most generous estimate, preferred by the New Orleans Police Department, the city's murder rate is 67 murders per 100,000 people. Using another, lower population estimate cited by the city, the rate would be 71.
Compared with the nine other cities with the highest per-capita murder rates last year, New Orleans remains at or near the highest rate in 2007. For instance, Detroit and Baltimore are estimated to have about 47 and 45 murders, respectively, for every 100,000 people. Only Gary, Ind., a small city with a population of less than 100,000, might end up with a higher per-capita murder rate than New Orleans. Gary, according to murder statistics provided by its police department late last week, expects a murder rate of about 68 murders per 100,000 people, a figure in the middle of the range of estimates for the New Orleans rate.
In Atlanta, which had far fewer homicides than New Orleans -- 126 homicides as of Dec. 26 -- officials nonetheless blamed the increase in killings there, in part, on a New Orleans-based gang that moved into town after Hurricane Katrina. Members of the "International Robbing Crew" are accused of killing at least seven people in Atlanta.
Complete fourth-quarter crime statistics won't be made available for another month, but if trends from the first three quarters hold steady, then violent crime has increased, drastically in some categories. Indeed, the rate of reported assaults -- a category that includes all nonfatal shootings -- in the first three quarters of the year was on pace to equal or surpass the number of assaults in each of the two years before Hurricane Katrina, when the city's population was far larger.
If assaults continue at the same rate, they will total about 2,045 this year. That compares with 2,033 reported assaults in 2003, and 2,178 in 2004.
The same trend applies to burglary. If trends hold steady, roughly 5,090 burglaries will be reported this year. That's approaching the 5,238 burglaries in 2004 and significantly higher than the 4,864 reported in 2003.
As for national trends, many cities across the country experienced upticks in violent crime and homicides in 2005 and 2006, but several major cities managed to beat back those trends this year with successful policing strategies, said Caterina Gouvis Roman with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York City are among the cities expecting overall decreases in murder compared with last year, she said.
Indeed, as of the end of last week, both New York and Chicago expected to end the year with the lowest murder rates in decades.
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