updated 1/25/2007 4:11:05 PM ET 2007-01-25T21:11:05

More federal crime-fighting help is headed to this city, where the murder rate has rebounded much faster than the population since Hurricane Katrina hit, U.S. Department of Justice officials announced Thursday.

New Orleans is getting nine more agents from the FBI, six from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and new ballistics equipment to replace a system that was destroyed when Katrina hit in August 2005.

In addition, Justice officials plan to have some agents from the FBI, ATF and the Drug Enforcement Administration work with the New Orleans Police Department around the clock.

“These federal agents will identify cases that are subject to federal jurisdiction, provide the necessary investigative assistance to make federal arrests, and follow up with federal prosecutions,” the Justice Department said in a news release.

The department also is extending funding through September for six federal prosecutors already assigned to the area, and is temporarily giving DEA agents power to enforce all federal laws.

The initiatives were announced in New Orleans by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and in Washington by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Crime returned with residents
Katrina virtually emptied the city of its residents. The city has been slow to repopulate since then, and crime has returned along with the people.

With a population estimated at 200,000, less than half the pre-Katrina population of 454,000, the city had 161 killings last year. That’s a per capita murder rate of 81 murders per 100,000 people.

The rate was 56 per 100,000 in 2004, when the city had 264 murders.

The police force is down from its pre-Katrina level of 1,700 officers to about 1,400. Police Superintendent Warren Riley said during Thursday’s news conference that the force is losing about 17 officers per month.

“The bottom line is other states are paying more money, giving them a signing bonus and housing opportunities,” Riley said.

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