(The Center Square) — New Orleans tops the list for the largest increase in homicides among America's 50 largest cities, according to a recent analysis.
A WalletHub study released Wednesday ranks New Orleans' homicide rate of 14.06 cases per 100,000 residents as the worst in the nation, using a methodology that's weighed half on homicides per capita in the second quarter of 2022, and half on changes in homicide rates in the last two years.
Through Tuesday, New Orleans Police count 161 murders, or 42 more than the 119 at the same point last year, New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said this week, WDSU reports.
"Through this morning, we have had 14 homicides this month, compared to 23 all of July last year," he said. "We are starting to see the trend downward just a little bit. Let's celebrate that success while we have it and build on that momentum."
Ferguson highlighted the department's 122 arrests for armed robberies, 63 arrests for homicide, and 79 arrests for non-fatal shootings this year.
New Orleans posted the third highest number of homicide cases per capita in the WalletHub analysis, behind Baltimore's 16.44 per 100,000 and 15.75 per 100,000 in St. Louis. The Big Easy had the second-highest change in the last year of 4.09 cases per capita, and the highest change over the last two years: 6.13 per capita, according to the report.
The two-year change was nearly double that of the next ranked city, Albuquerque, where cases increased 3.39 per capita. Louisville's increase of 4.36 homicide cases per capita was the most over the last year.
Nationally, "homicide rates have risen by an average of 18% in 50 of the most populated U.S. cities between Q2 2020 and Q2 2022, and are still rising," WalletHub reports.
The trend toward violence is worse in some places than in others. The analysis demonstrates that cities with Democrat mayors posted an average state ranking of 22.74, while the rank of cities with Republican mayors averaged 28.78. The smaller the number, the higher the increase in homicide rate.
The alarming increase in murders and other violent crimes comes amid an ongoing push to defund police departments across the country, as well as a trend of dwindling rates for arrests and convictions.
Numerous U.S. cities have reported a significant drop in arrests as part of a trend that began in 2014, the year Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
Spokane County (Wash.) Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told The Center Square he believes the decline in enforcement stems from a political climate created by Brown's shooting, the killing of five Dallas police in 2016, the death of George Floyd in 2020 and other high-profile incidents.
"The Ferguson Effect is a real thing. Police officers started to back away from enforcement," Knezovich said. "You saw it across the nation. You wonder why you see less and less enforcement and more and more crime, it's woke politicians and activists and the media have made it so. They wanted us to disengage."
Policing is now a "toxic" environment, he said.
"They have made the environment so toxic that it is very difficult to enforce laws in the United States right now," Knezovich said. "And we wonder why we in police enforcement started to disengage."