New Orleans Police Chief Says Crime Down Despite 2 Weekend Murders

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Help from state police and the National Guard has freed up New Orleans police to make more arrests and the city is safer as a result, despite two more murders over the weekend, police chief Warren Riley said Monday.

"This effort will be ongoing for some time," Riley said. "We're doing all that we can to insure that we take the criminal element off the street."

Both shootings took place in the same neighborhood where five teenagers were shot to death on June 17.

Riley described the two latest murder victims as career criminals with high-risk lifestyles.

Oscar Veals, 22, found lying in a pool of blood Saturday, was arrested twice this spring, and was a suspect in many other crimes, including murder, Riley said. Brandon Thompson, 24, was standing near a street when a car drove by and shooting began. Thompson and two men with him returned fire, wounding one passenger, who remained hospitalized in critical condition on Monday.

"When you have people who are career criminals, that are involved in violent activity, who are involved in the distribution of narcotics, you're going to have some of these things," Riley said. "We're doing all that we can. We believe that we're making progress. But some of these things are going to happen when you have people that are in and out of jail, who are violent and that's the lifestyle they live."

Riley pointed to a list of 112 people considered the worst criminals in the city, which had been cut to 83 since the Aug. 29 storm hit the city.

"We're trying to get the criminal element off the streets so they can't engage in those types of conflict," Riley said.

The National Guard, which is patrolling the largely deserted areas of New Orleans — the Lake Front, Ninth Ward and Eastern New Orleans — has made almost 100 arrests since arriving June, 20. The arrests are making a dent in the looting of houses.

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"The 85 arrests in the lower Ninth Ward is a great indication," Riley said. "Contractors have been a big, big problem for us. They're working in one house, and have crews taking copper, plumbing materials, roofing materials, things like that from other places."

The National Guard members patrolling the city include military police, special teams and people who work in law enforcement in their private lives, said Col. Steve Dabadie.

"I don't know what the length of the mission is," Dabadie said. "That's up to the governor. But we are going to do all we can to help the police keep the city under control."