Everyone knows the power the title Murder Capital of the United States holds. It means that New Orleans, Lousiana the home of Mardi gras, Po-boys, and beloved Bourbon street has garnered the most sinister title of them all. As of September 2022, New Orleans has seen the most murders per 100,000 residents than anywhere else in the US. With 52 murders per 100,000 residents, The Big Easy surpasses the numbers of St Louis, the former murder capital, which holds an equally appalling 45 murders per 100,00 residents.
Homicides in New Orleans have rapidly increased in recent years, from just last year there has been a 45% increase in homicides in the city, compared to an unsettling 141% increase in 2019. So where has New Orleans gone wrong? This seems like a question that can’t be answered because it really isn’t a New Orleans issue, it is an American issue. The United States has only seen a measly 5,371 homicides thus far in 2022, compared to the 5, 564 we saw at the same time last year, yet the country seems to be more fearful and dangerous than ever. The US is playing a disturbing game of tag with itself, cities competing for the title of Murder Capital and our yearly homicides teetering like a see-saw.
Perhaps this increase in crime is because our cities have become hubs for violence, while the suburban and rural communities remain safe, American Cities are suffering. While the exact cause of this is unknown, higher rates of poverty, taxes, and social unrest within our major cities are all contributing factors. In what is considered to be the safest state in the US by USNews, Vermont, only 10.2% of people live below the poverty line according to the US Census. This is incomparable to New Orleans which sees 23% of its residents living below the poverty line. The residents of these cities are suffering from not only the constant threat of violence but the harsh reality of poverty and knowing that these circumstances will prevent them from ever being able to remove themselves from that violence and hide away in a suburb.
Everyone understands what it means to be the Murder Capitol of the US, but most don’t understand what it means to live in the Murder Capital of the US. It means never feeling safe and fearing for your life anytime you take public transport. It means that children can’t walk to school by themselves and adults cant walk alone at night. It means that no one is safe. But what is there to do about these issues that have roots so deeply planted into the infrastructure of our societies? Invest in your communities and those around you.
Putting money into schooling, health care, and housing, violence interruption programs, and extracurriculars for teens has been proven to help reduce violence in big to medium-sized cities. Research done at NYU recorded that in a city of 100,000 people, each new community organization created a 1.2 percent drop in the homicide rate and a 1% drop in violent crime occurrence. This research was put into practice in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) started the LandCare program which involved cleaning up vacant lots in areas throughout the city that sat below the poverty line. They found that even this small investment into the community resulted in a 29% decrease in gun crime. This big change came from people putting time and work into their surrounding communities and reflects the huge effect people can have on violence in their communities.
We need to work against the normalization of murder by investing in our communities and creating an environment that will cater to the safety of everyone.