Filed Under:  Local, News

La. ranks as seventh most violent state in the U.S.

28th October 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

Louisiana ranks as the seventh most violent state in the country, according to 2012 statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that track the state’s murder rate and levels of property crime. The annual violent crime figures are compiled across various states by local, state and federal authorities, but each state is ranked in the order of criminal prevalence by the online news service 24/7 Wall Street.

In 2012, Louisiana boasted a murder rate of 10.8 per 100,000, the highest in the country, and the state struggles to beat back high rates of violent crime and property crime, yielding the second highest rate of larceny-theft nationwide. Resear­chers attribute the state’s crime rate, in part, to its standing as the third poorest state in the Union, ahead of only neighboring Mississippi and the state of New Mexico.

But nationwide violent crime remains on the decline and New Orleans continues to experience a double-digit decrease in the number of murders reported in the city during the first six months of 2013 over a year ago. In 2012, statistics show 40 percent of murders in Louisiana were committed in Orleans Parish.

But local reaction to the statistics and the state’s high ranking among violent areas nationwide has been cool. “Unfortunately, these types of reports have become the be all and end all of helping to create a city’s image,” says Rafael Goyeneche III, president of the New Orleans-based Metropolitan Crime Commission. “I happen to disagree with that because due to the politics of the situation, these figures can be skewed.” He believes crime figures are only one tool in assessing the overall safety of a community.

But while the state continues to battle high crime figures, local authorities have invested millions of dollars into the city’s NOLA for Life campaign designed to integrate enforcement mechanisms with preventative strategies to reduce crime. Goyeneche calls the program necessary for the city’s economic health. “These crime reports have an absolute impact on the city’s ability to market itself as a place to visit,” he states. “It’s about as negative an impact as you can get and NOLA for Life is attempting to combat that.”

NOLA for Life, launched in the wake of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s election in 2010, features job information for those most at risk to engage in criminal behavior, mentorship programs, a media campaign countering the city’s image as a murder capital, and blight reduction and neighborhood revitalization strategies. It has been billed as a method used to effectively reduce violent crime in other cities.

Yet the perception of Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular, as a violent locale persists, something that the city’s tourism and marketing officials remain keenly aware of and have developed strategies to combat. Kelly Schulz heads marketing and communications efforts for the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and says her job, in part, is to help manage the city’s image to visitors and convention-goers.

“We have a great partnership with the police department and they are always aware of who’s in town from what convention and where those folks are most likely to be traveling and we inform our guests that New Orleans has a very good safety record for tourists, but most people don’t pay attention to these crime reports because they know New Orleans and they know what kind of place it is and that they’re welcome here.”

Schulz says safety is just one aspect of what visitors examine when traveling to the state and that the region’s host of amenities and attractions has helped to keep it as a destination for thousands of travelers. “We know how to do big events well and that is what influences large groups of people to come here.”

This article originally published in the October 28, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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