The city of Gretna received national scrutiny ealier this week when a popular television station labeled it as the arrest capital of the United States, and possibly the world.
The in-depth article, which can be read here, focused on the number of arrests annually compared to the city's small population.
"This relatively peaceful suburb arrests people at five times the rate of Baltimore. It has a higher arrest rate than Myrtle Beach, a town whose population regularly swells with hundreds of thousands of vomiting college students. At the other end of the scale, the Gretna police make about 30 times as many arrests as the cops in Cupertino, California, a city three times Gretna’s size."
The video (below), leads with the line: "You're more likely to be arrested in Gretna than anywhere else in America ... possibly the world." That statement is justified in the video by the arrest frequency. In 2013, there were 6,566 arrests in a city with a population of just 17,802.
Graham Bosworth, who has been tapped to fill the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court seat of retired Judge Frank Marullo, said in the report that he has seen an uptick of arrests in Gretna in his five-plus years practicing criminal defense in the area.
"When I first started in the public defender's office, if someone went to jail, if they accepted jail time, judges didn't give them fines and fees," Bosworth said. "Now judges are trying to give fines and fees even for people who complete jail sentences on, like, a misdemeanor charge. The only reason they would be doing that is for revenue purposes."
Bosworth continued, noting that any judicial system intended for money-making is at its core an unconstitutional system.
"We in Louisiana fund our criminal justice system through the people who are prosecuted. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office gets a portion of everyone who goes through and pleads guilty. That incentivizes arrests," Bosworth said. "The system appears to be a cash cow. I think it's appalling."
According to the report, only 53 of those arrests were for violent offenses, including murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault. The report stated that 652 were for drug violations, and the bulk of the arrests were for drunkenness or disorderly conduct. 4,258 arrests were in the category of “other offenses,” not significant enough for the FBI to track.
The report also points to a lawsuit filed in 2015 by former Gretna police officer Daniel Swear, which claimed the department instituted a quota system for arrests and ticketing, and that he was fired for his concerns. Deputy Police chief Anthony Chistiana has denied these claims.
“The Gretna Police Department does not have a quota system and has never had a quota system,” Christiana said, after the lawsuit was filed. “But there’s a level of productivity expected anywhere you work.”
Read the full report here.