A crime wave is intensifying in this city already beset by a flagging recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and Hispanic immigrants helping to rebuild are common targets, according to police and to statistics released Thursday.
Despite an infusion of money and manpower into the justice system, the number of homicides is climbing, and armed robbers are preying on Hispanic day laborers flush with cash from rebuilding jobs, the Police Department says.
The city, which led the nation in murders per capita in 2006, is on track to do the same this year, according to data presented Thursday for April through June.
The report shows a 14 percent increase in murders and 44 percent leap in armed robberies for the first half of 2007 compared with the same period in 2006.
“It’s obviously not good,” said police Superintendent Warren Riley.
Crime has gotten so out of hand that Louisiana National Guard troops continue to patrol streets and the U.S. Justice Department has taken on a bigger role in fighting street crime, one that had largely been left to the city before Katrina.
The increase in armed robberies correlates to a spate of muggings of Hispanic workers, many of them undocumented, in the city’s devastated eastern section, Riley said. Much of the area, flooded by Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, remains a wasteland and is difficult to patrol.
The workers are easy prey because they often don’t have bank accounts and carry large amounts of cash, Riley said. A team of officers has been working on catching the robbers, he said.