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AFTER THE STORM
Our Continuing Work in New Orleans

08/28/07

An FBI SWAT team assists local law enforcement in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005
An FBI SWAT team assists local law enforcement in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005. More recently, special agents from around the country have been working with police to tamp down crime and probe murder cases. AP Photo

Early this year, we sent a call out across the FBI for seasoned agents with backgrounds as local homicide investigators to work shoulder to shoulder with detectives in New Orleans to help solve cases and tamp down crime.

By February 5, we had nine agents co-located with detectives from the New Orleans Police Department, with new ones rotating in every few months, including investigators from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Miami. They’ve responded to each of the nearly 100 murders in New Orleans since then, nearly tripling the success rate of these cases.

It’s just one of our many efforts in New Orleans since Katrina made landfall two years ago Wednesday. Though our main office in the city was destroyed—and many employees lost their homes—we literally stood our ground during the storm and have been on the ground ever since, working to combat a rising tide of crime and corruption that has followed in the wake of hurricane.

“This was a violent city before the storm,” says Jim Bernazzani, Special Agent in Charge of our New Orleans field office. “It’s even more so now, with fewer meaningful jobs and more crack cocaine and weapons on the street.”

Working with officials in Washington, Bernazzani has led a series of public safety initiatives in the past two years to support area law enforcement, including:

Violent Crime

  • Established a multi-agency FBI Violent Crime Intelligence Center that integrates criminal intelligence to produce strategic assessments for area law enforcement executives that focus resources more effectively and tactical assessments that help street agents and officers identify the most violent actors in their territories;
  • Sponsored a series of conferences that enabled area law enforcement to recognize the presence of Latin gangs, leading to the first-time arrest of members of MS-13 within days of the conference and arrests of members of the Latin Kings, the 18 th Street Gang, and other Latin gangs;
  • Initiated a series of community outreach efforts designed to convince reluctant citizens to report violent crime, including speeches before civic associations, public service announcements on local television and radio, and messages on billboards and community flyers; and
  • Assigned special agents and/or officers from our pre-existing Safe Streets Task Force to the eight New Orleans police districts and surrounding parishes.

Katrina Fraud and Public Corruption

  • Building on the previous work of our white-collar crime squad in New Orleans, established an additional Katrina/Rita fraud squad;
  • At the request of the Department of Justice, set up the Katrina Fraud Command Center to centralize tracking of all hurricane fraud information nationwide;
  • Created and promoted a toll-free Katrina/Rita hotline—1-800-CALL-FBI—to report suspected criminal activity, logging more than 17,000 tips to date;
  • Helped secure 119 fraud indictments and 73 convictions, saving Louisiana $2.5 million through recoveries, fines, and restitution; and
  • With billions of dollars in federal aid pouring into the region, increased our public corruption squads, leading to 69 indictments and 52 convictions and more than $50 million in savings to Louisiana.

Our work, of course, continues. “We’re here for the long haul,” says Bernazzani. “We’re part of this community, and we’re committed to this city.”

Resources:
- Katrina Fraud Cases and Information
- New Orleans Cases
- 2006 Interview on Katrina Anniversary