Murder Capital of US: New Orleans

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Updated: Per capita, New Orleans has by far the most murders of any city in the country. And that’s not likely to change until authorities get a grip on the situation.

Its 161 homicides last year translate to 70 murders per 100,000 people, reports CNN. This year, the murder rate probably will climb even higher—a total of 200 killings is projected. The city with the next-highest homicide rate, Gary, Ind., had 48 murders per 100,000 last year. New York City, by comparison, had 7.3, according to FBI statistics.

Meanwhile, holding murderers accountable is a big problem. Since January 2006, there have been three murder convictions in cases tried by the district attorney’s office, reports CNN. And even before Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and devastated its housing, economy and legal system in 2005, a study found only 12 percent of those arrested for murder in 2003-2004 were imprisoned, reports Reuters.

As local police and prosecutors blame each other for justice system failings, Reuters writes, federal prosecutors have begun filing charges in many violent crime cases so criminals don’t go unpunished. “This city and this region’s survival depends on getting a handle on violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten at a news conference this week. “Katrina didn’t create the problems we face today, although it certainly exacerbated them.

The situation could be worse: New Orleans murders hit an all-time high of 425 in 1994, Reuters says. In 2004, before Katrina hit, there were 265 homicides.

Nonetheless, people are very concerned. “There’s a general sense of a need for greater security and self-responsibility since the government is failing. … We’re just hoping it doesn’t turn into the O.K. Corral,” attorney Stephen Rue tells Reuters. He recently took a gun-handling class to get a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.

(Updated 08-29-07 at 12:44 p.m. CST.)

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