How does Baltimore compare to New Orleans on population, crime, and police?

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that she has chosen New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison to lead the city’s police department, a day after her previous pick for commissioner withdrew from consideration.

One day after the withdrawal of Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison would be her new nominee to lead Baltimore’s police department.

So how does Harrison’s old city compare to Baltimore? We took a look.



Baltimore is roughly 43 percent larger by population.

Roughly 393,300 people live in New Orleans, according to 2017 U.S. Census data.


Baltimore has 611,650 residents, according to the Census.

Racial Demographics

The two cities’ racial makeup is nearly identical, both mostly African-American.

New Orleans is roughly 60 percent black, 34 percent white and roughly 5 percent Hispanic, according to Census estimates.

Baltimore is nearly 63 percent black, 30 percent white and 5 percent Hispanic.


Police Department

Baltimore and New Orleans, like many other large law enforcement agencies across the country, have struggled to overcome understaffing in their police departments in recent years.

With 1,900 active officers, Baltimore still has the eighth largest police department in the country. But that’s down more than one-third from the 3,000 officers it needs, Pugh has said, and about 500 fewer sworn officers than the department had in 2012. Baltimore once had as many as 3,300 police officers.

In January of last year, Baltimoreans first heard the news that Mayor Catherine Pugh would be firing the city’s police commissioner Kevin Davis. Nearly a year later, the city still lacks a permanent police chief. Below, a look at how we got here. 

New Orleans had over 1,100 officers in 2017, according to the FBI, and a goal of increasing that number to 1,600, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has reported.

After investing $600,000 in police recruitment and pay raises in 2017, the department gained only 25 additional officers, after factoring in resignations and retirements, the newspaper reported.

Crime rate

The crime rate has been going up slightly in each city. In 2017, the rate per 100,000 residents was 6,955 in Baltimore and 5,365 in New Orleans, according to Uniform Crime Reports published by the FBI.

New Orleans vs. Baltimore crime rates
(Baltimore Sun Graphic)


Harrison will face many challenges as incoming Baltimore Police commissioner, but perhaps none as difficult as bringing down Baltimore’s homicide rate.

A return to at least 300 killings per year in the past four years, combined with an overall drop in population, put Baltimore’s homicide rate at 56 per 100,000 people in 2017, the highest of any U.S. city with a population of more than than 500,000, according to the FBI.

New Orleans’ homicide rate in 2017 was lower, 40.6 per 100,000.

Baltimore ended 2018 with 309 killings. In New Orleans, deadly violence in Harrison’s 4 ½-year tenure as New Orleans police superintendent peaked at 175 killings in 2016.

But Harrison had some success on that front: 146 people were killed there in 2018, the city’s lowest number of homicides since 116 in 1971, the Times-Picayune reported.

Consent decree

Both cities’ police departments are operating under a federal consent decree mandating sweeping reforms, following U.S. Department of Justice reports showing widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

The New Orleans Police Department entered its consent decree in 2013 following deadly police shootings and other civil rights abuses after Hurricane Katrina and is approaching full compliance, according to the Times-Picayune.

A NOPD program called “EPIC,” or Ethical Policing Is Courageous, has earned praise for encouraging cops to stop their colleagues from doing wrong, and a deputy chief overseeing the decree was invited last month to lecture the New York Police Department on improving interactions with the public, The New Orleans Advocate reported.

Baltimore’s consent decree is newer; it was approved in 2017, after a federal investigation of police practices requested following the 2015 protests and rioting over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun