Carjackings In New Orleans Skyrocket For 2nd Straight Year

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Carjackings are rising quickly in New Orleans, and analysts don't know why.

         Carjackings remained fairly steady from 2010 through 2013, but the number rose from 53 in 2013 to 145 so far this year, The New Orleans Advocate’s Jim Mustian reported Sunday.

         "Armed robberies and carjackings have not gotten a ton of publicity," said Jeff Asher, a former city analyst who tracks local crime statistics and writes a blog for The New Orleans Advocate. "But something bad is happening."

         Holdups in general are on the rise, he said, and many New Orleans carjackings fit two patterns: drivers stopped at red lights or standing at or near their vehicles — for instance, loading or unloading groceries.

         Since the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program tallies them among robberies, it's difficult to determine whether carjackings are on the rise around the country.

         But there is at least anecdotal evidence that suggests carjackings are more prevalent, said Roger Morris, vice president and spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

         Vehicle thefts nationwide fell from an all-time high of 1.6 million in 1991 to about 700,000 in 2013, largely because of anti-theft technology, he said.

         "Today's cars are much harder to steal unless you've got the key," Morris said. "You don't just hot-wire a car and drive it away today. And one of the ways to access a car, unfortunately, is through carjacking."

         Southern University criminologist John Penny said some criminals just seem to enjoy frightening people.

         Former police officer Bryan Lagarde, who created a nonprofit that monitors a crime camera network, said he thinks criminals may be taking advantage of the New Orleans Police Department's well-known manpower shortage.

         "I'm not talking about just less patrol officers but less detectives," Lagarde said. "It used to be on our crime cameras that we'd see people running away from the scene of a crime. We don't see that so much anymore. People seem to casually stroll away now."

         Uptown and Lakeview had had far fewer carjackings than other neighborhoods, and the difference is greater than that in other violent crimes, the newspaper reported.

         "With shootings, you see some spillover into other parts of the city," said Asher, who plotted a map of this year's carjackings. "But there appears to be a pretty huge geographic component with carjackings that I think defies easy explanation. It's hard to say exactly what it means, but I think it's stunning."

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