New Orleans has been cherished as one of America’s most historic and beautiful cities, attracting tourists from around the world to experience its melting pot of cultures, food and sensational nightlife. However, in 2022, the Big Easy was ravaged with violent crimes that put a damper on the city’s party spirit.
“It’s been a horrific year, and a horrific close to a horrific year,” said Jeff Asher, a crime analyst who works for the City Council, according to the New Orleans Advocate. “The numbers speak for themselves.”
In September, New Orleans unseated St. Louis as America’s “Murder Capital,” recording 52 homicides per 100,000 residents. St. Louis, which has long been ranked and considered one of the country’s most dangerous cities, had 45 homicides per 100,000 residents that same month.
In the following months, violence continued raging in the city, clocking in 280 homicides for calendar year 2022 and a homicide rate of 70 per 100,000 people, WDSU reported.
The New Orleans Police Department shared with Fox News Digital that final tallies for the year are still being tabulated, and as of Thursday, they have officially counted 277 homicides, not 280.
The final days of the year were especially bloody, including local comedian Brandon “Boogie B.” Montrell getting shot and killed outside a downtown grocery store, two teenagers fatally shot at a house party and a man fatally shot in the French Quarter in broad daylight by a juvenile. By Dec. 28, the city was looking at the highest number of homicides in 26 years at 277.
New Orleans recorded its lowest level of homicides in nearly 50 years back in 2019, reporting 119 homicides. The Metropolitan Crime Commission, a nonprofit based out of New Orleans, also calculated that there were 280 homicides in the city last year, reporting that this data marks a 131% increase in violent crime compared to 2019.
Homicide was not the only crime to balloon in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels. The Metropolitan Crime Commission data also show shootings increased by 88% last year when compared to data from 2019. Carjackings increased by 156% compared to 2019, and armed robberies were up 20%.
The pandemic’s lockdowns throttled New Orleans’ economy in 2020, with the city losing an estimated $200 million per week as its typical visitors remained home, PBS reported in 2021. Restaurants and businesses shuttered due to financial blows from both COVID lockdowns and Category 4 Hurricane Ida ripping through the Crescent City in 2021.
New Orleans is not alone in seeing a crime spike in recent years. In 2020, murders increased by nearly 30% across the country when compared to the year prior, according to FBI data. It marked the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking the crimes.
While the pandemic raged, protests and riots following the killing of George Floyd erupted across the country, bringing with it anti-police rhetoric that spurred cops from coast-to-coast into resignation and early retirement over cratering morale.
Experts who have previously spoken to Fox News Digital pointed to an array of variables that have likely contributed to the increases since 2020, including anti-police rhetoric voiced by Black Lives Matter and defund-the-police proponents, the pandemic, a culture of lawlessness promoted by liberal district attorneys, and the “Ferguson effect” — when police pull back, violent crimes spike.
Like many other city and local police departments, New Orleans has also been coping with police department staffing issues. Staffing problems hit a fever pitch in September, once the city earned the “Murder Capital” of the U.S. designation.
The NOPD also announced in the same month it would hire civilians to help respond to calls that do not require the presence of a police officer, to help handle administrative duties, and even to conduct detective work. The plan was unveiled to get more cops on the streets to deal with the crime spike.
Among those who left the police force was its top cop, Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. He was chosen by Mayor LaToya Cantrell in 2019 to lead the department and soon found himself in the midst of controversy as crime spiked and staffing levels tanked. Ferguson, who Cantrell lauded as a “great leader, a great partner and a great friend,” retired last month.
Cantrell named Michelle Woodfork as the city’s interim police chief, marking the first time a Black woman will lead the department, while the city conducts an already-fraught national search for a permanent chief. On Jan. 5, FOX8 reported that national firm Police Executive Research Forum declined New Orleans’ City Council’s written request to recruit potential candidates.
“You have to hit all the six pillars of policing for the 21st century. Building trust with community, legitimacy, education and training, safety and wellness of your officers, social media and technology I’m going to bring all this and more to the police department,” Woodfork told New Orleans talk radio station WBOK last month of how she will lead the department.
Amid the crime wave, critics have battered the Democratic mayor with outrage over her handling of crime and even launched a recall effort. In addition to the city’s crime issues, critics are calling Cantrell out for what they see as questionable trips to Europe and expenditures, as well as lacking city services, such as trash pickup and streetlights.
“The national term ‘quiet quitting,’ that’s what our mayor has done,” Eileen Carter previously told Fox News Digital, referring to the term for employees who do the bare minimum in their jobs. “Our mayor literally won’t say the word ‘crime.’ She has disassociated herself from crime. She refuses to be involved it in at all.” Carter is Cantrell’s former social media manager who partnered with Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, a former New Orleans mayoral candidate, to file a recall petition over the summer.
Cantrell addressed 2022’s crime last week, calling on District Attorney Jason Williams’ office to “do better” with criminal cases, citing cases that have been dismissed or stalled. Williams was acquitted of federal tax fraud charges in late July.
“The New Orleans Police Department needs to be notified in a timely manner when individuals are returning to our streets,” Cantrell stated at a press conference. “That helps us in our deployment strategies because we know where those individuals will return in terms of those neighborhoods and communities.”
As the city scrambles to address the violent crime issues, homicides have so far not backed down in 2023. It took only four hours into the new year for police to launch their first homicide investigation after a fatal shooting in Central City, Fox affiliate WVUE reported.
There were also at least four stabbings, three robberies and three shootings by Jan. 2. On Jan. 3, police made another grisly discovery during a wellness check at one home. Three dead bodies that had likely gone unnoticed for days surrounded by some bullets on the floor.
“Now is really the time, it’s been the time, but now more than ever because we see how we started the year, we don’t want this to progress at all,” Cantrell added in her remarks last week.
In an exclusive statement to Fox News Digital, City Councilman Eugene Green stated that “the levels of crime in our City are tragic, unacceptable, inexcusable, and not inevitable. There is no excuse for making victims of and hurting other people.”
The mayor’s office did not respond by time of publication to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on 2022’s crime data and the recall effort launched against her.
Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.