Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Good Ol' Days Are Back

In Murder City:

Murder is making a comeback in New Orleans.

The city had 30 murders this year through April. That is less than half of the 81 recorded during the first four months of 2005. But New Orleans' population these days is less than half of what it was before Katrina.

Also, while there were 17 murders in January through March of this year, there were 13 in April alone. That is the most for any month since the Aug. 29 storm, though still well below the monthly average of 22 in 2003 and 2004.

And May has gotten off to a violent start with three slayings, including a shooting that followed an argument in a Bourbon Street bar early Tuesday.

....Law-enforcement officers acknowledge rising numbers of murders and shootings, and attribute them largely to turf wars among criminals returning to the city.

"Since April began, we've had the return of individuals who have a legacy of violent crimes," said Jim Bernazzani, the FBI agent in charge of New Orleans. "Prior to storm they were residing in areas that are now uninhabitable. So they are returning to the 20 percent of the city that did not flood and they are running into violent criminals whose turf it is."

The post-Katrina murder are haunting echoes of pre-Katrina New Orleans.

...."I don't think things have changed at all," said Dr. Micelle Haydel, an emergency-room doctor at Charity Hospital, where most trauma victims in the city are taken. "We're still getting the shooting and stabbing victims. It's still happening, and it will get worse as people return."

In neighboring Jefferson Parish, the murder rate is way up. The population has fallen from about 450,000 before Katrina to around 370,000, according to the parish president's office. But there were 22 murders though April, compared with 28 during all of last year.

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