Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Business as usual

Things are rapidly getting back to normal in New Orleans.

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E]xperts say that ... homicides are on the rise in the Big Easy at a time when other cities are seeing their murder rates plummet to levels not seen in decades.

The city’s murder rate is still far lower than a decade ago, when New Orleans was the country’s murder capital. But in recent years, the city’s homicide rate has climbed again to nearly 10 times the national average.

“We’re going in the reverse of 46 of the top 50 cities in the United States. Almost everyone is going down, but we’re going up,” said criminologist Peter Scharf. “There is something going on in New Orleans that is not going on elsewhere.”

Many of the killings are related to drugs and gangs — but police say more are simply disputes that get out of hand.

Along with reluctant witnesses, experts say the city has too few police and inexperienced prosecutors. Coming up with more cash has been a chronic problem for money-pinched New Orleans, which typically lurches from budget to budget.

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