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Law Enforcement: With Violent Crime on the Rise, New Orleans Police Are Arresting Thousands of Drug Offenders, Traffic Violators

A watchdog group has criticized the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) for wasting man-hours and resources by arresting thousands of traffic violators, drug users, and other low-level offenders even as the city faces a wave of violent crime. NOPD brass are defending their focus.

In a report released early this month, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a private watchdog group, found that police made some 29,000 arrests during the first half of 2007, but more than half of them were for traffic offenses or failure to pay municipal fines or traffic tickets. Only 2% of arrests were for violent crimes. That percentage stayed roughly the same even as violent crime rose by 17% between the first and second quarters of the year.

The commission noted that of the 15,000 arrests for traffic violations or unpaid fines, only 6,000 were for offenses that required the offender be arrested. The remaining 9,000 petty arrests could and should have been handled by citations, freeing up officers to deal with more serious offenses, the commission recommended.

Meanwhile, figures from the New Orleans Parish District Attorneys Office compiled by the commission show that drug cases accounted for 62% of all felony convictions in the second quarter, up from 55% in the first quarter. This as the number of convictions for violent felonies declined by 17% in the second quarter.

Such policies are just wrong-headed, the commission said. "Although we do not advocate that the NOPD disregard their obligation to enforce traffic and municipal laws, the MCC respectfully recommends that the NOPD focus upon violent and repeat offenders rather than perpetuating their high-volume arrest practices," the commission said in its report, which was presented this week to committees in the state legislature.

But New Orleans Police Superintendant Warren Riley defended his department, warning that if it stopped arresting minor offenders, the city would descend into anarchy. "It is a recipe for chaos. It is not a recipe for reducing crime," Riley told members of the House Judiciary and Senate Judiciary committees at the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Orleans Parish DA Eddie Jordan, whose office is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases, also rejected the report's conclusions. Arrests of minor offenders were often justified because of their lengthy criminal records, he said. And, ignoring the role of prohibition in creating violence in drug markets, he defended drug arrests by saying drug trafficking was often linked to violence.

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Typical prohibitionist mindset

NOPD, is often termed the most corrupt police force in America. Now we also know they have their priorities upside down. Perhaps that is because they truly are corrupt and are protecting the real criminals?

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