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Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Chief Michael Harrison, hold a press conference at the University Medical Center after 6 people were shot including a child on the 3600 block of Franklin Ave in the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans, Thursday, June 8, 2017.

Advocate Staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER

As the leading candidates for mayor squabble over how to handle violent crime, a poll released Tuesday shows a 13 percent drop from last year in satisfaction with the New Orleans Police Department.

Just over half of adults in the city — 51 percent — now say they are happy with the force. The rating for the NOPD’s handling of violent crime in particular plunged 20 points.

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The shift in perception came as the number of major crimes jumped 12 percent between the first half of last year and the first half of this year, according to NOPD statistics. Homicides spiked sharply in the first half of 2017, although they have slowed considerably since July.

“We had a difficult time of it,” said Greg Rusovich, a past chairman of the group that commissioned the poll, the New Orleans Crime Coalition. “When violent crime increases, that’s what’s on everybody’s mind.”

The coalition is made up of business and social service organizations including the New Orleans Business Council, the Police & Justice Foundation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The poll was conducted Sept. 5-7.

Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a written statement that crime has been on a downward trend in recent months and the poll's timing may have led to the unfavorable results.

"The responses were taken in a period prior to the results of our summertime crime suppression efforts being made public, and immediately prior to the public being made aware of a decline in homicides, year over year," Harrison said.

"In fact, the murder rate in particular and violent crime overall have been on the decrease. The current homicide rate stands at 6.25 percent below the same time last year. Murders are down, but that’s not immediately reflected in public understanding," he added.

The poll did not ask residents for their feelings on Harrison, who was appointed to lead the department by Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2014. Several candidates for mayor have said they would consider replacing him.

The survey-takers found that nearly equal numbers of black and white New Orleanians were satisfied with the department — 53 percent and 51 percent, respectively — although both were less happy than last year.

Feelings about the force varied widely among neighborhoods. Happiest, at 72 percent, were residents of the 8th District, which covers the French Quarter and Central Business District. Least satisfied, at 38 percent, were residents of the 6th District, which includes Central City, the Irish Channel and the Lower Garden District.

Perception of officer performance within a single area as opposed to the whole city dropped the most in the 4th District, which covers Algiers. Neighborhood satisfaction there dropped 33 points, to 44 percent.

Residents gave lower marks for the NOPD’s honesty and integrity, down 11 points from last year, to 57 percent. The score for overall competence dropped 12 points, to 56 percent.

“I don’t know why that is. It’s interesting to note that while those numbers go down, the department continues to receive high marks from persons interacting with officers,” Rusovich said.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432