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A troubling sign of life returns to New Orleans

As people come back, crime spikes in the city.

A troubling sign of life is returning to New Orleans— death. Wednesday night saw the Big Easy’s 25th murder of the year.

But it’s still a long way from the pre-Katrina days, when the city had more killings per capita than anywhere else in the country. Figures from the end of 2005 show crime plummeted: homicides and robberies are each down 95 percent, rapes are down 62 percent.

But Rafael Goyeneche says, “Those statistics are virtually meaningless.” Goyeneche heads a police watchdog group called the “Metropolitan Crime Commission” and says those were the days when the city was almost empty of residents and full of troops and police.

“Violent crime, homicide, armed robbery, burglary,” Goyeneche says, “We’re starting to see those tick up.”

For instance, armed robberies in the same area of last night’s murder jumped from just two in February to 10 in March — a 400 percent increase.

New Orleans Chief of Police Warren Riley says he expects crime to increase as people come back.  “We have things in place to ensure that our crime level never gets to the level it was pre-Katrina,” says Riley.

New Orleans Police Department has reorganized in the crime downtime, to make up for having almost 200 fewer officers. But still the force faces problems: The city offers block after deserted block of places for criminals to operate and hide.

Desiree Jones’ son was murdered in those bad old days.  Now she ministers on the streets in the same neighborhood where he died — and prays that murder in New Orleans is the only thing that doesn’t make a come back.