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New Orleans Crime Wave Taxes Louisiana’s Police, National Guard

In the midst of trying to rebuild, New Orleans faces a murder rate that exceeds that of Compton, Calif., in the latest FBI statistics. Officials have relied on the state's National Guard to help police, but at some point the troops will need to leave the city.

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  • BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:

    For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans has a new class of police cadets: 41 men and women started 22 weeks of vigorous training last week. And from day one, some stark advice from the boss, Police Superintendent Warren Riley.

  • WARREN RILEY, Superintendent, New Orleans Police Department:

    You will be pushed to your limit in many cases, so you need to be mentally strong and determined, because if you do not really want to do this job, you won't be here three weeks.


    A lot is riding on this diverse group of men and women, people like 49-year-old recruit Terry Baham.

  • TERRY BAHAM, Police Recruit:

    I want to bring back my family, my three grandsons, everyone who's displaced. And the only way I'll be able to do that is to help make the city safer.


    There is no question that crime has returned to New Orleans with a vengeance. This year alone, there have been 149 murders; that's down 56 from last year. But the murders took place in a city with less than half of the population since the storm.

    And what's especially frightening is that murders, armed robberies and burglaries are taking place in areas where tourists frequent: the French Quarter, uptown, the Garden District. Police say much of the violence is caused by drug dealers who've returned to the city since Katrina and are now involved in turf wars.

    But Superintendent Riley says the department is also seeing a new form of violence.


    Things are beginning to evolve so some of our murders are not so much criminals who are predators, but family members who just can't deal with it anymore. And they can't deal with their situation, they can't deal with five people living in a 10-by-30-foot FEMA trailer anymore, and they can't deal with being unemployed.


    Six homicides took place over the Thanksgiving weekend alone, one of them right in the middle of the French Quarter.


    We have unique challenges in the city of New Orleans, challenges that you all will have to face. We have a crime issue.