Apr 19, 2014 4:39 PM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Data compiled by a New Orleans newspaper shows the city's 2014 murder count was 38 as of Friday.
The figure reported by The New Orleans Advocate is a 21 percent decrease from the 48 murders in the city by the same point last year.
The total for all of last year, 156, was the lowest since 1985.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu attributes the progress to his administration's "NOLA for Life programs." Those include various resources, including job fairs, education and recreational activities for people likely to be caught up in street violence.
"I can't honestly tell you that we know, measurably, which one of these things is contributing to which particular reduction in murder, but all of them together seem to be moving us in the right direction," Landrieu said.
The anti-violence campaign continues to expand. Last year, it added a crisis intervention program at the Interim LSU Hospital Trauma Unit. The program is designed to mediate conflicts among surviving victims of gun violence.
"That (hospitalized) individual often is sort of a captive audience for a period of time, but you're also likely going to see their family members. You're going to see their friends as they come through to check on them," said Charles West, who leads Landrieu's Innovation Delivery Team.
Mark VanLandingham, a public health professor at Tulane University who has studied the city's crime patterns, said the decline, following last year's dip, "is very impressive and encouraging." He said it represents "an additional piece of evidence that suggests that New Orleans could be on the cusp of a profound and sustainable decline in our murder rate."
The numbers are particularly encouraging because the first few months of the year historically have been among the bloodiest in New Orleans, said Dee Wood Harper, a professor emeritus of sociology and criminology at Loyola University. The commonly held belief that the "summer is hotter" when it comes to murder, Harper added, "doesn't really hold in New Orleans since we have a fairly hot climate year round."
Peter Scharf, a criminologist at Tulane University, said he is not persuaded the city's intervention and outreach efforts have had an immediate impact on the murder rate. A more likely contributor, he said, has been the attention the U.S. Attorney's Office has paid to notorious gangs and the collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in targeting violent gangsters and drug traffickers. "It has to do with the force of the federal hammer," Scharf said.