Now having the top murder rate in the nation, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is discussing her plan to curb homicides and why she feels politics stands in the way.
Cantrell joined Good Morning America on Tuesday to discuss the city's soaring murder rate and out-of-control crime.
"We're seeing a spike in domestic crimes and violence, meaning it's less random but more people who know people, people hurting people in our city," she said. "That spike -- absolutely since COVID-19."
The homicide rate in New Orleans is up 40%, according to Major Cities Chiefs Association. Compared to other major cities, NOLA's numbers (per 100,000 residents) are staggering. Murder is up just 20% in Atlanta, 11.5% in Chicago, 4.8% in Los Angeles and 2.4% in New York.
"What happened, quite frankly, is just we had zero jury trials for over two years. We had an issue with our district attorney relaxing cases or not even accepting cases. We had courts closed... but we also had the impact of COVID-19, domestic violence clearly on a rise and we're just seeing it, even in spikes in juvenile crime as well," said Cantrell.
The mayor understands that some residents hold her responsible for the crime rate, and she wants them to know that she accepts that responsibility "100 percent," but with a caveat.
"Police make the arrest but we want to make sure that individuals (who) are arrested are held accountable and off the streets of the City of New Orleans -- and you know, just like me, that does not fall in the lap of the mayor," Cantrell said. "But it does fall in terms of being collaborative, being one that brings people together and continues to focus on where the needs are the greatest and putting resources where they need to be placed most."
Part of the solution is getting more police officers on the streets, a plan that involves retention as well as recruitment. Cantrell said the current level of understaffing is "staggering."
"(It has) pushed me and forced me to make every single roll call within our Police District -- eight districts. It really pushed me even further, I would say, to make sure that our platoon officers that are on the streets get the adequate support again on the street," she said. "I had to assign or reassign every commissioned officer that is a non-patrol back to the streets of New Orleans, getting that added support."
"If my officers are safe, then the citizens of New Orleans can be safe," she added.
Despite the crime, Cantrell said visitors are returning to the city "in droves."
"What I will say is that right now, on the ground in the City of New Orleans with a redeployment strategy that's gaining results every single day, that our city is safer than it's been in a long time," she said. "And more importantly than that, we're seeing the results and we're seeing visitors on the streets of New Orleans today and every day since, I would say since we've been opened back up, leading the nation in combating COVID-19."
"Never bet against the City of New Orleans," she added.