There are typically four main motives that are assigned as the overarching reason behind homicide in New Orleans. Narcotics, argument, retribution and robbery accounted for over 85 percent of known motives between 2008 and 2014 according to data acquired by NOPD.

To answer this question I turned to NOPD’s homicide spreadsheets from 2008 to 2014 which I public records requested a while ago (the 2015 spreadsheet did not have a motive column). These spreadsheets have details on the date, location, item number, victim, arrest status and a short gist to go along with a motive category.

I combined the 7 full years of motive data and sorted them into 14 categories: unknown, narcotics, argument, retribution, robbery, domestic, self-defense (remember: not all homicides are murders), mistake, child abuse, accidental, rape, financial, negligence, and innocent bystander.

There were 1,302 homicides over that timeframe of which 376 (28.9 percent) had no known motive according to NOPD. Drugs were responsible for fully a quarter of the homicides in which a motive was known and 18 percent overall. Drugs, argument, retribution and robbery accounted for 86.1 percent of known motives and 61.2 percent overall.

Motive Total % of Known % of Total
Unknown 376 - 28.9%
Narcotics 235 25.4% 18.0%
Argument 223 24.1% 17.1%
Retribution 220 23.8% 16.9%
Robbery 119 12.9% 9.1%
Domestic 64 6.9% 4.9%
Self-Def 29 3.1% 2.2%
Mistake 9 1.0% 0.7%
Child Abuse 7 0.8% 0.5%
Accidental 5 0.5% 0.4%
Rape 5 0.5% 0.4%
Financial 4 0.4% 0.3%
Negligence 4 0.4% 0.3%
Innocent Bystander 2 0.2% 0.2%

Why does this matter?

Well, understanding changes in murder requires thinking about the crime’s drivers. Robbery was up 57 percent in New Orleans in 2015 relative to 2010. More robberies means more murders. Drug enforcement is down upwards of 60 percent citywide since 2012 which might be creating a more robust illicit drug market leading to more narcotics-related murders.

In essence figuring out what’s causing murder to begin with can provide a blueprint for understanding current trends and reducing the problem over the long haul.