Crime in the French Quarter is such a major issue for New Orleans that it recently made its way into Louisiana’s upcoming gubernatorial election. The Quarter is, in many respects, the lifeblood of New Orleans due to the preponderance of tourists there. Analyzing criminal activity in and around the Quarter since the beginning of 2014 highlights tenuous success that needs closer monitoring over the long term.
Isolating crime in the French Quarter is more challenging than in Lakeview because of the neighborhood’s weird shape. To determine which crimes took place in the French Quarter, I took Calls for Service data of major crimes that would likely make the Uniform Crime Report and mapped them to Google Earth. I then highlighted crimes that fell within a theoretical box bounded by the Quarter’s furthest north, south, east and west points. The result, shown in the map below, includes some spillover into Treme, Marigny and the CBD.
Map of analyzed crimes, 2014 – 2015. One pin = one crime. Source: NOPD.
For the remainder of this analysis, I will refer to this area as the Quarter. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best that could be done with the available technology.
This analysis focuses on only 2014 and 2015 data. I initially wrote this piece looking at all of the available data from 2011 through 2015, but decided to limit the analysis to 2014 – 2015 because of crime reporting problems from 2011 – 2013 identified by the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office. Crime here is limited to person and property crimes that are likely to make it into the Uniform Crime Report as defined here.
French Quarter Crime Overview
Only about 1 percent of New Orleans residents live in the Quarter, but the neighborhood attracts a disproportionate amount of the city’s crime, as the chart below shows.
The Quarter ranks as the city’s 25th most violent neighborhood (out of 70) in terms of gun violence since 2011. The majority of French Quarter crimes are property crimes rather than person crimes, but this ratio is smaller than the citywide ratio, as shown in the table below.
The French Quarter also sees a statistically significant bump in crime during Mardi Gras season. The 30 days leading up to Mardi Gras since 2011 have produced an average of 7.27 crimes per day while all other days throughout the year have produced 5.92 crimes per day.
French Quarter Crime Trends
Much has been made of crime trends in the French Quarter in the past year. Reviewing crime in the Quarter in 2015 compared to the end of 2014 shows how changing patterns in the Quarter can drive changes in citywide crime statistics. The below graph charts changes in the pace of crime over 365 days relative to where things stood in the French Quarter and the rest of the city at the end of 2014.
Gun Crimes and the Quarter
But reducing crime in the Quarter is unlikely to have much of an impact on reducing armed robberies and gun violence citywide. Shootings in the French Quarter have made up only 1.3 percent of citywide shootings since the beginning of 2011. There has been a higher ratio of shootings in the Quarter in 2015, but it is difficult to say whether this is the start of a trend or simply the result of a small sample size. Regardless, even eliminating French Quarter shootings altogether would have only a marginal impact on overall gun violence in New Orleans.
Evaluating French Quarter crime since the infamous Bourbon Street shooting in late June 2014 highlights a number of interesting trends. The below chart shows the annualized 30 day pace of crime starting in January 2014 and ending in early August 2015.
The pace of crime rose between November and late January before falling shortly before Mardi Gras when the State Police returned. There was a bump in crime during Mardi Gras, just as there has been each year since 2011, but it’s worth noting that 2015’s Mardi Gras bump was smaller than in recent years.
Crime dropped in the French Quarter through the end of May 2015, when the citizen-run NOLA Patrol began working in the Quarter. Crime in the Quarter has now increased about 13 percent as of early August compared to the pace of crime at the end of May. Whether this decline is a temporary setback or the start of a larger negative trend remains to be seen.
Reducing crime in the French Quarter is critical for assuring the safety of the city’s guests and residents alike. The deployment of the State Police appears to have had a positive effect on French Quarter crime, but that success may be tenuous. It is important, therefore, to continually measure and analyze the area’s crime to ensure effective policies are being put in place.