NEW ORLEANS Less than a week after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu touted a string of peaceful and well-managed city events capped by the BCS championship game, he was back at the podium on Friday trying to reassure residents that an upsurge in violence was being dealt with.
"This is a battle for the heart and soul of New Orleans," Landrieu said about an 18-hour wave of violence that saw 17 people shot and six killed, a lockdown and evacuation of an elementary school, and shots fired at police twice.
In all, 12 people have been murdered New Orleans in the first 12 days of the year, and at least two dozen, including a 12-year-old girl, have been wounded in shootings.
The string of violence included a gunman opening fire inside a house on Thursday, shooting five people, three of whom died. Police chased down a trio of suspects, and returned fire, killing one man and wounding a man and a woman. Later that night, police headquarters was evacuated with a pair of hand grenades were found in the trunk of the car, although they were later found to be duds.
The shootings involving police may have been sparked by a new, more aggressive approach by police, said Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who categorized it as "taking the fight to the streets."
The police force has beefed up its homicide department to 30 detectives, and is keeping officers in the city's so-called hotspots, Landrieu said. He added that response time has also gone down lately. The department has also added new computer programs to aid in efficient officer deployment.
None of that reassures Janice Landry, a 58-year-old who has lived in New Orleans her life.
"The violence is more than murder," she said. "It's people robbing people, people breaking into houses, people carjacking people. And those things happen to you even if you aren't a criminal or living that kind of life."