Taking a novel approach to crime research, Columbia University researchers studying New Orleans ignored where offenses happened and looked instead at the home addresses of incarcerated criminals.
They found a few distinct neighborhoods that serve as a home base for lawbreakers who commit their crimes citywide.
Central City, the triangle of territory bounded by Louisiana Avenue, Earhart Boulevard and St. Charles Avenue, emerged as one area with a high concentration of incarcerated residents. Almost 13 percent of the New Orleans residents sentenced in 2006 to state Department of Corrections institutions hailed from Central City, an area that at the time boasted a little more than 5 percent of the city's population, according to the analysis. Other hot spots included the 7th Ward and parts of Algiers.
That information could prove a powerful tool, according to researchers and city leaders trying to fashion a long-term strategic plan to battle crime through neighborhood revitalization. New Orleans City Councilman James Carter said neighborhoods like Central City -- with failing schools, crumbling public housing and rampant blight -- serve as breeding grounds for criminals, a problem beyond the capability of law enforcement to solve. The solution, he said, calls for multiple government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations to pour money and volunteers into rebuilding neighborhood infrastructure, including schools, parks, community centers, health clinics and recreational facilities.