Tuesday, February 5, 2008


NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday is the often raucous end to the pre-Lenten Carnival season. The celebration characterized by family friendly parades uptown and in the suburbs and by heavy drinking and lots of near-nudity in the French Quarter is highlighted by 12 days of parades and parties.

In stark contrast to the celebrations taking place during Mardi Gras, New Orleans has the dubious honor of being the bloodiest city in the country, still reeling from crime in its struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

The FBI's rankings for 2007 will not be out until much later in the year, but New Orleans' population is thought to be 295,450, which would mean a rate of about 71 homicides per 100,000 people. Even the most generous population estimate in 2006 put the number of people in the city that year at 255,000.

That meant a real homicide rate of 63.5 per 100,000 residents in New Orleans. To compare that number with some other notoriously bloody cities, the rate for Gary, Ind., was 48.3 and Detroit's was 47.1.

The killings are drug-related or retaliatory for the most part, police have said. The upswing comes despite continued patrols by the National Guard and state police and the addition of two new classes of police recruits in the past year.

But beefed-up policing efforts can only do so much, said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission of Greater New Orleans.
"The police and the criminal justice system is expected to clean up the mess, but they didn't create the mess," Goyeneche said. "They aren't responsible for the social problems of the city, the failure of the school system, the degeneration of the family unit. And until the city does something to rectify those problems, crime and murder will continue to be a problem."

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