Despite a number of significant recent arrests, New Orleans police recorded a much higher-than-average rate of property crimes such as thefts, break-ins and auto burglaries in the Uptown-based Sixth District in April, although the trend is finally showing signs of slowing, officials said Friday.
During the last three full weeks, April 6 to 26, the Sixth District (which runs roughly from Napoleon Avenue downriver to the Central Business District) responded to roughly 45 property crimes per week, according to data shared at the NOPD citywide meeting of commanders and ranking officers. That’s up 50 percent or more from the 25 to 30 property crimes that are the norm in the district, and prompted Deputy Chief Kirk Bouyelas to note that those three weeks are the highest totals of any in the past year for the district.
Actually, responded NOPD Sixth District Frank Young, it’s probably the highest three weeks in much longer than a year — the crime-statistics software only creates charts that go back 52 weeks.
“Burglary is trending up and that’s where we’ve got to focus our efforts,” Young said. “But we’re confident that we’ve dialed in a response that’s starting to pay dividends.”
One cluster of burglaries is in the lower section of Magazine Street, and detectives in those cases have been stymied by blurry surveillance video and alarms being left off, so that the crimes are not discovered until the following day. They have collected evidence, however, that implicates the growing homeless population under the Pontchartrain Expressway, Young said.
“I do suspect that the nighttime business burglaries are related to the homelessness,” Young said.
Police activity in the Sixth District has been at high levels. the officers noted. Patrol officers are making drug and gun cases at average or above-average rates, and detectives have made arrests in several recent cases, including a home-invasion in Central City and a Garden District home burglary.
“The activity is there,” Young said. “The message is delivered to the guys that we’ve got to get out there and do the work to slow down the crime trend.”
Another major clearance comes with new charges filed against Percy Brown, whom police first arrested after chasing a stolen truck through the Milan neighborhood. Investigators found a gun that was discarded during the chase, and Brown let slip “Ya’ll found the gun,” indicating that it was his, Young said. Ballistics testing have since linked the gun to a shooting in the Irish Channel that the stolen truck was seen in, Young said.
“He’s connected to gun by his own utterance, and ballistics connected the gun to the shooting,” Young said.
The wave of property crimes may be slowing. As of Friday morning, Young said only 25 property crimes have been recorded in the district, which may signal a return to normal levels.
Deputy Superintendent Darryl Albert said that the Sixth District’s explanations for their activity make sense. Though crime is up, they are making significant arrests, and they are changing strategies week to week to try address the specific problems causing the surge.
Moving forward, the Sixth District will receive assistance from the city’s centralized gang and special-operations units to bring the property-crime hot spots under control, Albert said.
“With all the different things they put in place, we feel much better about what’s going to happen,” Albert said, noting the downward tick in the current week. “It showed they were active. They were proactive, out in the field, and they were doing the things that work.”
In spite of the surge in burglaries, violent crimes such as rape, robbery and murder remain at their usual level in the Sixth District, of roughly five per week. Only two have been recorded so far this week, Young noted.
Citywide, homicides are still trending down. Homicide detectives have recorded 42 for the year, down from 56 this time in 2013 — a 25 percent reduction, said Homicide Sgt. Nick Gernon. The current figures project a total of 126 will be recorded in 2014 — down dramatically from the nearly 200 recorded in 2011 and 2012.