When the New Orleans Police Department releases the details of a homicide, it also reveals the full rap sheet of the victim whether the murder was crime-related or not. The year-old policy is meant to let the public know that the majority of murders in the city occur between people with similar criminal backgrounds, but families of victims call the practice insensitive and insulting.

In spite of its destination as a tourist attraction and the location of numerous music festivals, New Orleans has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country. Last year there were 199 murders in the 344,000 person city, which is 10 times the national average. This is an increase from 2010 but a huge decrease from the years before Katrina when the population was higher. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas says that 62 percent of those killed in 2011 had previous felony arrests and 39 percent of those killed had prior arrests for illegal possession of a firearm. He also claims that the publication of this information is not meant to add insult to injury, it is meant to deter people from following a criminal path.

“If I walked into the doctor’s office and he told me there was a 40 percent certainty that something I was doing would affect my life, don’t you think I would want that knowledge? This is knowledge people need to know, and talk about.”

Other cities with high murder rates, such as Detroit and Baltimore, specifically avoid the release of this information, with Baltimore only providing it by request and Detroit only publicizing it in cases where the criminal activity is related to the murder itself. Opponents of the policy also see it has having racial undertones because the majority of victims and perpetrators are black. The Police Department is focusing on building trust within black communities (i.e. an anti “Stop Snitching” kind of thing) and adding to the grief of families who’ve lost loved ones doesn’t seem like the best way to do so.

What do you think of this policy? Could it be effective in preventing crime or does it do more harm to victims’ families than good?

Read more at NPR.

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  • apple

    its amazing though, there was a white murder victim last week with an extensive record and not once did ANY news cast mention all of his arrest and warrants…

    I hate new orleans, i hate i had to come back to this death trap and i can’t wait to get out

  • Malcolm X

    This definitely has a racial undertone to it, plain and simple…I mean let`s call a spade a spade. But hey, this is America where, BLACK, life is devalued. It`s always been like this since our sojourn in America. Being a BLACK male, I`m very cognizant of the fact that, as soon as I leave my home I`m entering into an unseen war zone. At any time I can become a victim of police brutality or even worse a homicide, perpetrated by law enforcement. And then they wonder why I don`t particular care for and am suspicious of law enforcement. The police is a nebulous, paramilitary, group when it comes to minorities, especially BLACKS. Their main objective is not to protect us or our communities per se but, rather to be, the archetype of the kkk. They are just legally bequeathed, with the right by the laws of the state, to murder us openly and not fear repercussions because BLACK life is devalued…different times, same objective.


  • fuchsia

    It’s racist.

  • Priceless34

    it may be racist but the killings are out of control.
    I live in a city where there have been more murders than the number of days in this month.
    Talk about scary.

  • ruggie

    When they’re at the point of describing the incident, there’s no way to tell that the criminial activity in the victim’s rap sheet directly relates to the crime. In other words, the criminal record is IRRELEVANT.

    The ultimate effect is to suggest the victims “had it coming” and, yes, this has racial and class overtones. This policy violates the victims’ human rights.