The New Orleans police department's top brass tends to place the blame for all of the city's criminal justice woes on Katrina, but it's well known that New Orleans was an extraordinarily dangerous place well before the hurricane made landfall. The crack cocaine wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s that made Washington, DC and New York City such hotbeds of street violence hit a particularly bloody crescendo in New Orleans.
In recent years, the Orleans Parish district attorney's office has released hundreds of suspects under Article 701 of the Louisiana code of criminal procedure, which states that suspects cannot be held for longer than 60 days on felony arrest without an indictment. Reasons given for the lack of charges filed in 701 cases range from incomplete police reports to overburdened assistant district attorney's who were simply not able to file an indictment before the 60-day period expired. Unsurprisingly, the city's drug business began getting the message that felony crimes-even murder-would most likely end in a 701 release.
Pre-Katrina, there were a few hundred 701 releases per year. But after the storm, the trickle of 701 releases became a flood. In 2006 alone, there were nearly 3,000 such releases, a five- or six-fold increase over pre-flood levels.
Gee, really? The NOLA district attorney isn't effective? Wow. Who'da thunk a racist bigot would be incompetent?