"The people who want social workers to handle [police] calls, obviously don’t live in New Orleans,” says Dr. Peter Scharf, a criminologist and professor with LSU School of Public Health.
Dr. Scharf speaks bluntly when it comes to the recent trend of trying to remake police departments by defunding them or disbanding them.
“The research that increasing social services will reduce violent crime is between thin and non-existent,” he states. “Almost none of the studies I’ve seen indicate that’s an effective crime control strategy.”
Scharf’s views on crime and how to combat it seem iconoclastic as marches call for police departments to be stripped of funding and the resources redistributed among social and community help programs.
But Scharf’s take on recent crime activity, especially last week’s particularly bloody holiday weekend which saw 13 people shot in nine incidents and four people killed, is sobering when the statistic is weighed evenly against the crime ridden streets of Chicago:
“You just can’t have too many weekends like this, we almost doubled the murder rate of Chicago, and that’s just bad. There’s something that is not going right, and we’ve got to fix it.”
2020 is turning out to be an especially bad year for NOPD.
Coming off 2019, which saw 119 murders, the lowest number of homicides in a generation, to the first six months of 2020 where already 91 people have been killed.
It's put New Orleans on track to approach 200 murders if something doesn’t change quickly.
Scharf says it's time the NOPD “continue with what seemed to be working,” he says. “Intelligence led policing, community policing, and really think this through and double down on our successes.”
But Scharf also says it’s time to get off cops’ backs:
“They feel battered and bruised by all these criticisms,” Scharf says pointedly. “Demonization of the police creates stress on the part of the officers and a feeling of betrayal.”
Scharf says it’s tough enough to put on the badge without having to feel like a moving target.
“It’s not a great way to go work and solve violent crime.”