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.