Eleven days into a new year that has seen more than a dozen slayings — including two triple killings and one double homicide — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Wednesday the formation of a 14-member task force to address violent crime.
It’s the latest attempt to address a seemingly unyielding stream of mayhem that took hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, one which saw 280 homicide deaths in 2022. That translated to 70 killings per 100,000 residents, the nonpartisan watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission said in a year-end report.
It was the highest number of homicides the city had seen since 1996. The violence comes as the city struggles to replenish manpower in a police department that, with an estimated 950 officers, is hundreds below what local officials believe is an ideal level.
“The task force will be engaged every hour, every day,” Cantrell said during a news conference, likening the move to the city’s efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 as the pandemic took hold in 2020.
She said the plan was to be able to report progress in 60 days, although she did not set specific goals.
The task force will be chaired by Tyrell Morris, head of the city’s 911 communications district. Members will include criminal and juvenile court judges and District Attorney Jason Williams.
It does not include any member of the City Council, an omittance that drew criticism from council members.
“It was a major slight, especially given the fact that I’ve tried to conduct myself in a fair way to make sure that I can work with everybody,” council member Oliver Thomas, chair of the council’s criminal justice committee, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.