It’s truly disappointing that the New Year was rung in with headlines such as “New Orleans is ‘America’s Murder Capital’ of 2022,” after nine shooting incidents in just 24 hours at year’s end.

As a native Louisianan, a former probation and parole officer, and the Louisiana State Director of Right On Crime, a criminal justice initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, I’ve dedicated my life and career to improving our criminal justice system with data driven solutions.

The New Orleans Police Department is understaffed and overworked.  Like their peers across the nation, we must make a commitment to fully staff and fund police and other law enforcement agencies. With more than 4,000 calls requiring a police response in 2022, NOPD worked 482 shootings and 541 robberies.  With that unprecedented caseload, it’s little surprise that only one third of the 280 homicides in 2022 have been solved.

We must put our resources into catching, prosecuting, and incarcerating violent criminals. Those committing violent crimes must be taken off the streets so that the families who lost loved ones can receive justice and begin the long road to healing. To reduce crime in our communities, we must determine the root cause of violent crime and tackle it legislatively.

The sweeping reforms of the 2017 Justice Reinvestment Package, passed by the Louisiana Legislature, continues to reduce non-violent crimes statewide by creating programs that are reducing recidivism and making communities safer.

Some critics will try to blame the reforms for the rise in violent crime in New Orleans, but if that were true, what about Baton Rouge and other Louisiana cities? Baton Rouge implemented a series of city-wide anti-violence initiatives to achieve a decrease in homicides and violent crime in 2022.

Even one murder is too many, and this is not the time for knee jerk reactions or half measures. Nationwide, the surge in violent crime began to take shape in early 2020 and escalated throughout the pandemic with cycles of employment hardships, strained law enforcement agencies, and a backlogged court system. It’s time that every municipality and state take a hard look at root causes.

In 2023, legislation to create the new Louisiana Violent Crime Task Force is being drafted by state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, to study the dramatic rise in violent crime in Louisiana with an emphasis on determining its cause and crafting solutions to help tackle the problem legislatively.

I commend Rep. Seabaugh, and I will encourage the Task Force to fully support our law enforcement agencies and take a hard look at the anti-violence initiatives in Baton Rouge. Louisiana and the nation must continue to focus on criminal justice policies that are evidence-based and data-focused to maintain public safety, protect victims’ rights, and create stronger communities.