New Orleans' murder rate is on pace to be one of the highest in the world in 2022 after already sharp increases in 2020 and 2021.
The city has recorded 145 murders as of June 30, putting it on pace for nearly 300 murders this year and a rate of 74.12 per 100,000 population. That rate would dwarf Chicago's 18.26 murders per 100,000 population and would rank 9th among major cities in the world that are not at war, according to 2018 data compiled by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexico City-based advocacy group.
The surging murder rate continues to b a troubling trend for the city, which saw murders rise from 119 in 2019 to 201 in 2020. That number continued to climb in 2021, reaching 218, an 83% increase over 2019 numbers.
The surge in murders is part of a national trend of growing violence in major U.S. cities since 2020, which many experts have blamed on pandemic-related lockdowns and anti-police sentiment in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. However, the 83% surge in New Orleans far outpaces the increasing violence around the country, which saw a 22.5% increase in homicides in 2020.
The trend is a reversal of nearly three decades of progress the city made in a crack down on violence, with the city setting its high mark of 87.6 murders per 100,000 population in 1994. Borrowing strategies from cities like New York City, New Orleans adopted a more proactive approach to policing and prosecution techniques, helping the murder rate decline until the turn of the century. Violence ticked up again in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but stabilized between 2012 and 2019.
The city's troubling murder rate comes at the same time as "progressive prosecutor" Jason Williams took over as district attorney for New Orleans in January 2021. Under tax fraud investigation himself, Williams promised a "more selective" approach to prosecutions that goes "beyond punishment."
"Being more selective about prosecutions will allow us to focus on the crimes that matter most to all of us," Williams said after being sworn in. "We’ve got to go beyond punishment and invest in our community."
Williams has backed up his promise, potentially contributing to the city ranking in the top 10 for world murder rate. According to the 2018 data, which was the most recent compiled, New Orleans would rank only better than five cities in Mexico, two in Venezuela, and one in Brazil.
According to an analysis from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Williams' tactics have resulted in a "drastic decline in accountability for violent felony offenders."
The report found that violent felony crime had increased significantly over the last 18 months, yet Williams' office dismissed 937 of the city's 1,411 violent felony cases during his first months in office. Williams' 21% felony conviction rate over the same time period was also a sharp decline from the previous administration's, who had a felony conviction rate of 57% in 2019 and 52% in 2020.
"We respectfully encourage the Williams administration to continue re-examining and modifying their prosecutorial philosophy with respect to violent and repeat felony offenders to better support the efforts of the NOPD to hold violent offenders accountable and to better provide public safety for all citizens," the report read.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office and the New Orleans Police Department did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.