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The city’s 193 homicides in 2012 are seven fewer than the previous year, while the first three months of 2013 represented an even slower pace of killing.
Leading efforts to lower the homicide rate is a police force that’s faced its own internal problems and staffing issues. At about 1,200 members, the department is 300 short of its peak level.
Serpas, chief since 2010, has been working to overcome the effects of decades of scandal and community mistrust arising from what the U.S. Justice Department says has been questionable use of force and biased policing. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Serpas have instituted numerous reforms, but the city is at odds with the Justice Department over the cost and scope of more extensive changes.
Landrieu’s administration initially agreed to a reform plan expected to cost tens of millions over the next several years. But Landrieu says he wants out now because Justice lawyers entered a separate agreement with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman over the violent and unsanitary New Orleans jail — funded by the city but operated by Gusman.
The site of the Sunday shooting — about 1.5 miles from the heart of the French Quarter — showcases other problems facing the city. Stubborn poverty and blight are evident in the area of middle-class and low-income homes. Like other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the area has been slower to repopulate than wealthier areas. And Landrieu’s stepped up efforts to demolish or renovate blighted properties — a pre-Katrina problem made worse by the storm — remain too slow for some.
Frank Jones, 71, whose house is a few doors down from the shooting site, said the house across from him has been abandoned since Katrina. Squatters and drug dealers sometimes take shelter there, he said.
A city code inspector, who declined to be interviewed, was there Monday
"It’s too late," Jones said. "Should have fixed it from the very beginning. A lot of people are getting fed up with the system."
Associated Press reporter Stacey Plaisance contributed to this story.
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