MAYOR LANDRIEU ENCOURAGES COURTS TO INCREASE BOND FOR ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF FIREARM CHARGES
NEW ORLEANS, LA—In an effort to target violent gun offenders, Mayor Mitch Landrieu today encouraged judges at Criminal and Municipal Court to use their discretion in setting higher cash bond amounts for illegal possession of firearm charges. A similar policy change has shown initial success in reducing the murder rate in St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally, the Mayor is encouraging defendants facing gun charges to be required by the courts to pay for electronic monitoring as a condition of bonded release, so the NOPD can watch and restrict their movements.
The letter from the Mayor states:
“Last year, 199 people were murdered on the streets of New Orleans. A hard look at the facts shows that in 2011 many of those arrested for murder (40%) and many victims of murder (33%) had at least one prior arrest for illegal possession of a firearm. In St. Louis, authorities were seeing a similar pattern and last year the 22nd Circuit Court of Missouri began to require at least $30,000 cash bonds for those facing charges of illegal concealment of a weapon or other weapons charges.
“In early January, St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom credited the practice with reducing 2011 homicides by 20 percent to a level not seen since 2004. No other major anti-homicide initiatives were launched in St. Louis during this time that might otherwise explain the precipitous drop in homicides. Now, the University of Chicago Crime Lab has begun to review the results of St. Louis’ efforts and by all accounts this is a very promising approach that deserves further consideration.
“Gun offenders are a significant threat to the community. As a condition of bonded release, defendants facing gun charges should be required by the court to pay for electronic monitoring so the NOPD can watch and restrict their movements. In addition, we hope that your court will take a close look at the work being done in St. Louis to ensure that dangerous criminals with guns are kept off the streets.”
In addition to commending the cash bond policy to the judges, the Mayor is also encouraging the bench to ensure that those suspects that are released and who can pay for their own electronic ankle bracelet monitoring do so. For 2012, the City has budgeted $700,000, for the ankle bracelet monitoring program run by the Sheriff.
“As we work to reduce murders, it is important to examine thoughtfully the linkages we see between prior criminal conduct and the murders in our city,” said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. “The linkage between prior illegal weapons charges and murder cannot be ignored. The NOPD will continue to arrest serious offenders, and we’re encouraging our judges to use their discretion and consider illegal possession of a firearm charges as a serious threat to our community.”
Criminal Justice Commissioner James Carter said, “The more we look at the facts, it is clear that there are connections between prior illegal gun possession arrests and murder. This should be considered a grave threat to the safety and well-being of the people of New Orleans. It will not be tolerated. We have an aggressive, holistic approach to solving this problem. We are going to attack it from all ends, and this program is just another way we can deter the senseless violence occurring in our community.”
As the letter states, in mid-2011, St. Louis, Missouri was on pace to match its 2010 murder total of 144. But in May, the head of St. Louis Criminal Court, Judge John Garvey, began to implement a new strategy for addressing gun violence by setting cash bond amounts of $30,000 or more for illegal gun possession charges. Some observers, including St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom, credit the practice with helping reduce the city’s homicides by over 20 percent, to a level not seen since 2004.
The University of Chicago Crime Lab, which studies violence prevention efforts across the country, has started to review the results of St. Louis’ efforts. The team at the University of Chicago will provide similar analysis in New Orleans.
Jens Ludwig, McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy at the University of Chicago and the Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab said, “The overwhelming majority of homicides in New Orleans are committed with firearms. The use of higher cash bond amounts for illegal gun possession combined with electronic monitoring of gun offenders upon release offers two promising mechanisms for increasing the deterrent effect the criminal justice system can have on illegal gun carrying. If successful, these strategies have the potential to dramatically improve public safety and reduce the enormous costs of gun violence to society.”
Letters to Chief Judges Camille Buras and Paul Sens are below: