Examining Violence In New Orleans Uncovers Distinct Trends:
NOLA FOR LIFE Does Not Exist In A Vacuum
NOLA FOR LIFE does not exist in a vacuum. In addition to the 40 initiatives in this report, there are other factors that impact murder in New Orleans, such as population growth/ decline, education, wealth creation, hospital care, policy changes, and broader national trends, all of which bolster or hinder the success of NOLA FOR LIFE.
These trends and factors have been examined to provide additional context to murder in New Orleans, identify factors that can help improve the murder rate, and identify factors which are challenges to an additional reduction.
While the number of murders has declined 18% from 2011-2015, the total population has increased by 8%. 91% of murder victims from 2012-2015 were black, and the black population has increased in proportion with the overall population.If all other factors remained equal, New Orleans would have expected an 8% increase in murders
from population growth in 2011-2015. However, the number of murders in 2015 was 18% lower
than 2011, and thus the murder rate was 24% lower.
Neighborhoods that experience the highest levels of violence also experience high levels of poverty and unemployment. Examining changes in income and poverty could reveal changes in the city’s demographic makeup, which could influence the murder rate. While the New Orleans per capita income increased 14.4% from 2011-2014 (figures not yet available for 2015), African- American per capita income only increased 6.9% over that time (inflation was 5.2% over this time26). Furthermore, 27.8% of New Orleans citizens and 36.4% of African-American’s live in poverty, a higher proportion than the national average.While New Orleans has seen significant economic growth, neighborhoods that have high levels of violence have grown at a much slower rate. Ensuring all New Orleanians have a chance to benefit from the city’s economic growth will be an important factor in the level of violence. Recognizing this, Mayor Landrieu has created an entire strategy to address Economic Opportunity.
24 U.S. Census Bureau. Annual estimates of the resident population: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved May 10, 2016,
25 U.S. Census Bureau. Sex by age (black or African American alone): American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved May 10,
2016, from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B01001B&prodType=table
26 Bureau of Labor Statistics. CPI Inflation Calculator. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
27 U.S. Census Bureau. Per capita income in the past 12 months: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from
28 U.S. Census Bureau. Per capita income in the past 12 months (black or African American alone): American Community Survey 1-Year
Estimates. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_
29 U.S. Census Bureau. Poverty status in the past 12 months: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from
Comparing shootings to murders
91% of murders from 2012-2015 were a result of being shot. This makes it clear that shootings
have a strong influence on the number of murders. Shooting indicators are comprehensively
examined in the following ways:
1. Shooting accuracy
2. Medical care
3. Justifiable homicides, negligent homicides, and unclassified deaths
It is not feasible to measure shootings which do not strike an individual. Gunfire that does not strike an individual may not be called into police, or gunfire that is called into police may not be an attempted murder (gunfire could be celebratory, practice, accidental, etc.).
However, shooting victim data can be tracked back to 2010. By comparing non-fatal shooting victims to fatal shooting victims, it shows that the decrease in both fatal shooting victims and non-fatal victims has been nearly identical from 2011-2015. The percent of shooting victims that died has also stayed consistently around 30% each year. 2016 has seen a lower percentage die than typical, but historical trends suggest that will revert toward the norm over the remainder of the year.Shooting accuracy has remained consistent over time and has not been responsible for the consistent reduction in murders.
Factors here could be ambulance response time and medical techniques:
- Ambulance response time – New Orleans Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is measured on the % of Code 3 responses within 12 minutes, an industry gauge for response time compliance. Ambulance arrival times were most consistently within 12 minutes in 2011, the year before NOLA FOR LIFE launched and which had a higher murder rate than all subsequent years.
- Medical techniques - A majority of shooting victims are transported to University Medical Center (UMC), which is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in South Louisiana. The below table is data received from the hospital of individuals who arrived at UMC with a gunshot wound from an assault. The percentage of gunshot wound victims who survived after arriving at the hospital has decreased slightly in the years that NOLA FOR LIFE has been active. There is no evidence of new medical techniques causing an increased survival rate of gunshot victims.
Justifiable Homicides, Negligent Homicides, And Unclassified Deaths
The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office investigates suspicious deaths, in part to determine whether they are a homicide. Deaths medically classified as homicides can be determined by the NOPD and District Attorney’s office as murder, justifiable homicide, or negligent homicide. Homicides are classified as justifiable homicides in situations such as self-defense, and are not counted in murder totals. Homicides are classified as negligent when the killing is because of gross negligence or without malice, and are not counted in murder totals.
Deaths determined to be “unclassifed at the scene” are on-scene designations that a further medical investigation is warranted, including autopsy and toxicological analysis. The vast majority of these deaths are ultimately deemed to be due to natural causes or accidental drug overdoses. This is not to be confused with deaths ultimately determined by the coroner as “undetermined” in cause. The number of justifiable or negligent homicides has been similar each year. Per the Coroner’s office, unclassified deaths have been increasing since 2014 due to changes in drug abuse patterns and access to medical care.
Early Childhood Development and Education
Early childhood development and education have tremendous influence on whether an individual will become involved in violence. Childhood experiences of economic hardship, exposure to violence, or chronic neglect can cause chronic, toxic stress that disrupts the architecture of the brain. This disruption of the brain architecture can lead to lifelong difficulties in learning, memory, and self-regulation. Scholars argue that poverty may be the single greatest threat to children’s healthy brain development, and 39% of New Orleans children live in poverty.30
Child Poverty Rates
Reading skills in third grade are considered an early warning indicator of future academic
performance. In New Orleans, 44% of students test below a basic level.31
Percent of Third Grade Students at Each Achievement Level
While high school graduation rates have improved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
graduation rates and other education metrics still lag Louisiana and the United States.32
High School 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rates As of Spring of Year Four
If literacy and graduation rates continue to improve, this should help reduce the amount of
violence. Preparing students for success in education begins with early childhood development.
30 Mack, V. (2015). New Orleans Kids, Working Parents, and Poverty (p. 1-5). New Orleans, LA: The Data Center.
31 Mack, V. (2015). The New Orleans Youth Index (p. 24). New Orleans, LA: The Data Center. Spring 2015, English Language Arts
32 Mack, V. (2015). The New Orleans Youth Index (p. 29). New Orleans, LA: The Data Center.
National and Local Trends
Comparing to the cities with the 20 highest murder rates in 2011, New Orleans has seen the most significant reduction. Looking statewide, Louisiana had a 6% reduction in murders from 2011 – 2014 (data not available for 2015), but without New Orleans, there would have been a 7% increase in murders.
New Orleans has not benefitted from a state or national murder reduction trend, but rather has outperformed comparison cities.
New Orleans was not known for having gangs in the way that Los Angeles and Chicago have been. However, when doing initial analysis for NOLA FOR LIFE, it was discovered that while New Orleans does not have structured gangs with high numbers of individuals, there are a large amount of smaller groups or gangs (often as small as 3-10 individuals) who account for a disproportionate amount of the violence. By focusing on these groups, gang violence has been reduced. However, gang violence still accounts for a large amount of murders and continues to be a challenge in overall violence in New Orleans.
Brandon M. Boutin – President and CEO, 2B Ministries; 1st Assistant Pastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church
I am thankful for the opportunity that has been extended to me to work with NOLA FOR LIFE. I have been very intricately involved in the program from its inception. I have participated in the Group Violence Reduction Strategy program, the NOLA FOR LIFE television program “Voices of Men”, the NOLA FOR LIFE Symposium, and Midnight Basketball.
I am very impressed with the NOLA FOR LIFE concept and model. I love how our Mayor and his administrative team have recognized the specific things that are the roots of violence within our city. Once those violent roots were identified, a countless sacrifice of time, energy, and creativity were put forth to create a murder reduction strategy. NOLA FOR LIFE has strategically brought in and helped those that were troubled, and brought solutions to questions that many young people & adults who felt voiceless have been longing to hear.
NOLA FOR LIFE has been successful because it not only answers the cries of our community, but it also gives support to those who need it and a voice to those who feel that they are not heard.
Paulette Carter – President and CEO, Children’s Bureau of New Orleans
Having provided trauma intervention services for more than 30 years, Children’s Bureau has seen, first-hand, the negative and pervasive impact of violence exposure on our youth, families, and community. The causes of violence are complex, and, Mayor Landrieu’s NOLA FOR LIFE initiative has provided a unifying strategy and structure for violence intervention and prevention efforts across the city. NOLA FOR LIFE has also brought attention to the impact of trauma on our citizens and the need for supports and services that effectively address trauma. Children’s Bureau is proud to be a part of the Trauma Informed Schools learning collaborative, an effort that was convened by the New Orleans Health Department to help schools better respond to the needs of children and youth exposed to trauma and has recently been funded by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate the effectiveness of a model to implement trauma informed care in schools. As part of the NOLA FOR LIFE Services Collaborative, Children’s Bureau is working with other service providers to ensure that boys and young men of color who have been affected by violence have the supports and resources they need to be successful. And NOLA FOR LIFE has continued to support Children’s Bureau’s work with children, youth and families who are experiencing mental health issues related to their exposure to violence.