The city of Gretna, Louisiana, sees more arrests than in any other place in the country, including some high-population, high-crime towns like Baltimore and New York City. The arrest rate in Gretna is a whopping 14 times higher than the national average, with 6,566 arrests made in 2013 alone – a figure that places the annual arrest rate at one in three in Gretna. To put it in perspective the city only has 18,000 residents.
Dubious Claim to Fame
Despite the incredibly high arrest rate, Gretna is a relatively peaceful place. Records for 2013 arrests indicate that of those 6.5 thousand arrested, only 49 were for violent offenses, placing the rate of violent crime in Gretna at below the national average, which according to the most recent FBI statistics is 386.3 offenses per 100,000 people. Other 2013 arrest statistics in Gretna included:
- 652 arrests for drug violations
- 948 arrests for drunkenness or disorderly conduct
- 4,258 arrests for “other offenses” (those not significant enough to be tracked by the FBI)
There are 30 times more arrests in this Louisiana city than in Cupertino, California, a city with over 60,000 residents.
Disproportionate Arrests of Black Adults in Gretna
Although African-Americans make up only one-third of Gretna’s population, two-thirds of the people arrested in Gretna are black. Proportionately, this means eight out of nine African-Americans in Gretna are detained or just taken into custody by law enforcement officials. Young Black men are at the highest risk of being arrested.
Unfortunately, this is consistent with (though slightly higher than) the national average, as 50 percent of black males report legal issues before the age of 23. All around the United States, African-Americans face incarceration rates at more than five times the rate of white people.
Why Are There So Many Arrests in Gretna?
According to Gretna police, the shockingly high arrest rate is due to repeated arrests. Allegedly, many Gretna residents fail to show up in court when they get an appearance date, which leads to warrants sworn out and subsequent arrests.
Many of the issues seem to lie within the area of court fines. In Gretna, failure to appear in court or to pay court-ordered fines will result in a warrant out under your name. Those who can’t afford the first penalty find themselves saddled with more fines and penalties. It’s a vicious cycle, resulting in more unpaid debts and missed court dates, then more arrests, and more fines. For lower-income residents, becoming trapped in the sequence of penalties and seizures is difficult or impossible to escape.
Unless Gretna addresses the overly aggressive collection activities of the city and the imbalance in arrest profiling, this situation is likely to continue, and Gretna, Louisiana, will keep it’s dubious claim to fame as the country’s arrest capital.
Hire an Attorney if Arrested
Because of the aggressive policing and compounding fine system used in Gretna, it’s important to understand the court process thoroughly and how to avoid further arrests, issued warrants, and assessed court costs.
Don’t allow yourself to be kept in a constant cycle of court dates, hire a reputable Louisiana criminal defense lawyer to represent you and protect your rights and future. The attorneys of The John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm, LLC. have a combined 25 years of experience defending clients against all manner of criminal charges in the state of Louisiana. Contact us as soon as possible at (318) 377-1555 to schedule a free consultation about your case.