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New Orleans business owners are fed up with the rise in crime in the city, which has seen its murder rate spike to highs unseen in almost three decades.
“I think there is a lot of people that have worked in the French Quarter and loved to work in the French Quarter, but they just don’t feel safe coming down here anymore,” Christian Pendleton of the Louisiana Restaurant Association told WWLTV. “They don’t feel safe, leaving work at night and having to walk to their cars because of the lack of police presence in the French Quarter and knowing nothing is happening criminals when they’re found, they’re getting the proverbial detention slip.”
Pendleton’s comments come as crime has surged in New Orleans in recent years, and 2022 is showing no signs that the trend will improve any time soon. The city’s murder rate is on pace to hit 74.12 murders per 100,000 population, a mark that would put the city among the highest in the world and the highest New Orleans has recorded since 1994. Unofficial numbers from June show 31 murders in the city as the typical summer crime wave begins to heat up.
Murders began surging in the city in 2020, jumping to 201 from 119 in 2019. That number rose again in 2021 to 218, an 83% increase over 2019’s number. Now, New Orleans is on pace to eclipse 300 murders in 2022, something that has residents and business owners concerned.
“It’s definitely affected our lives down here because you don’t want to walk alone,” French Quarter resident Lucy Burnett told WWLTV. “I don’t go out alone, and I certainly don’t go out at night… “I’m starting to worry about it in the daytime.”
New Orleans has been hit particularly hard by a violent crime surge that has plagued the nation since 2020, with experts pinning the blame for the rise on pandemic-related restrictions and protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death that fueled the defund the police movement.
According to the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, the issue can be traced back to the aftermath of Floyd’s death, something that was also observed after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“Violent-crime increase—call it Ferguson Effect 2.0 or the Minneapolis Effect— has come on with a speed and magnitude that make Ferguson 1.0 seem tranquil,” Mac Donald said during 2020’s crime wave. “George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May was justly condemned — but the event has now spurred an outpouring of contempt against the pillars of law and order that has no precedent in American history.”
New Orleans itself was the site of multiple protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, with some of those protests turning chaotic and violent. In a June 2020 protest in the city, officers were forced to use tear gas to disperse a crowd that had protesters engage police officers in a physical confrontation, according to reporting from Nola.com.
The city was also host to dozens of protests that were more peaceful, with protesters demanding reforms to police tactics in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
“I don’t want to hear about Black people dying for no reason,” protester Jess Miller said at the time, according to Fox 8.
“Black lives matter. It’s a tragedy what happened to George Floyd. I’m out here just supporting Black people,” Jamal Louis, another protester, said at the time.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests and calls to defend the police in mid-2020, the murder rate in the U.S. skyrocketed compared to 2019. Among Black Americans alone, the murder rate climbed by 32%, resulting in the deaths of 2,457 more Black Americans than the year prior.
In New Orleans, the movement helped lead to the election of “progressive prosecutor” Jason Williams as the district attorney, who promised a “more selective” approach to prosecutions that goes “beyond punishment.”
“Being more selective about prosecutions will allow us to focus on the crimes that matter most to all of us,” Williams said after being sworn in. “We’ve got to go beyond punishment and invest in our community.”
Williams, who is under tax fraud investigation, has largely made good on that promise, leading the Metropolitan Crime Commission to conclude his tactics needed to change in order to combat the city’s rising crime issue.
“We respectfully encourage the Williams administration to continue re-examining and modifying their prosecutorial philosophy with respect to violent and repeat felony offenders to better support the efforts of the NOPD to hold violent offenders accountable and to better provide public safety for all citizens,” the organization’s 2021 report read.
However, Pendleton says promises to tackle the problem have yet to materialize, leaving businesses and residents of the city frustrated and scared.
“You always hear them say it’s a top priority, it’s a top priority, I hear that in your words, I don’t see that in your actions,” Pendleton said.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.