NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While violent crime is spiraling in New Orleans, the city's criminal justice system in bogged down in minor narcotics offenses while only a small percentage of major criminals wind up behind bars, according to a study released by a private anti-crime watchdog group.
According to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, 72 percent of all convictions in criminal district court in New Orleans were for drug offenses, while two-thirds of those were for simple possession. The commission released the study Tuesday.
The study, which covered the period of Oct. 1, 2003 to Sept. 30, 2004, also found that only 12 percent of those convicted of drug distribution were sent to prison. Such crimes as murder, rape, robbery and felony batter or assault made up only 5 percent of the convictions.
"Basically, we're convicting the minor offenders, and the serious offenders are walking free," said Rafael Goyeneche, the commission's executive director. "Is it any wonder we have a serious crime problem when so few people are being prosecuted, much less convicted, for crimes of violence?"
Chief District Judge Calvin Johnson did not argue with the findings.
"If they're saying we're becoming a marijuana court and a misdemeanor drug court, they're right," Johnson said. "Where are the robbery cases? Where are the burglaries? Where are the murders? They're not on my docket. We're being overwhelmed by these nickel-and-dime cases."
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