As of this writing, 15 murders have been reported in New Orleans in the first 21 days of the year. At that rate the city is on its way to over 350 murders in 2007. There were three more shootings over the weekend, but as far as we know all three victims remain alive.
Violent deaths classified
Many of you have inquired as to the difference between murders and homicides.
According to the story in the Baton Rouge paper, the authorities in East Baton Rouge Parish report all homicides in the city.
The authorities in New Orleans distinguish between murders and "justifiable homicides."
If a killing is classified as a "justifiable homicide" the public is not made aware of these violent deaths. What's "justifiable" may be just a matter of opinion or hold on to your seat - politics. The determination could depend on the competence of the defense attorney hired by the killer.
If Baton Rouge and other cities are reporting all the violent deaths (justifiable homicides, murders and accidents resulting from criminal actions) and New Orleans they are not, it obfuscates the amount of violent crime in New Orleans.
East Baton Rouge Parish which arguably has twice the population (435,000 in July) of New Orleans recorded 83 homicides in 2006. In the same period New Orleans reported 162 murders and 176 justifiable homicides and murders combined. More than twice the number of East Baton Rouge with half the population.
The media in New Orleans is either a witting or unwitting accomplice to downplaying the violent deaths statistics. Until a couple of days ago, when the information was given to me, I never heard the figure of 176 homicides in New Orleans for the year 2006.
Why not report all of them. It's a matter of public safety.
By contrast every American who dies in Iraq is prompting and loudly reported. Why not the Americans in New Orleans.
I'm not suggesting that the media unnecessarily frighten (more than they already are) the residents of New Orleans.
I am suggesting that the media stop giving the residents a false sense of security which may result in more lives lost. Reporting all the violent deaths may be the only way to maintain the pressure which NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley requested on himself and others responsible for the safety of the residents of New Orleans.