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Measure that gives city employees the power to ticket residents could head to vote this week

Ryan Nelsen

A measure to give employees of certain municipal offices the authority to ticket residents and companies that violate "quality of life" ordinances in New Orleans is moving closer to its final vote.

The measure gives limited city employees the ability to be deputized by the NOPD and the power to punish nine violations in the city's charter. If passed, the infractions that could earn a ticket would be illegal dumping, public right of way obstructions, overgrown weeds, drainage blocking and tour guide regulations.

All parties involved believe the move would create more efficiency in their departments. Currently, the NOPD are needed to levy the tickets.

If passed, the NOPD, which is experiencing an officer shortage, could spend more time patrolling and tracking violent crimes, said Michael Pfeiffer, the innovation manager at the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau inside the NOPD.

"If a complaint comes into one of these agencies, they send a member of their department out to investigate,” Pfeiffer said. “If they need to take immediate enforcement action, they would then have to call NOPD. That is a code one."

Pfeiffer said that a code one, meaning that the NOPD assumes the situation is low-risk, can linger in their queue as the department takes care of more pressing tasks. This can force the city worker to wait for hours for the NOPD, who just need to fill out a violation citation. Giving ticketing power to the city worker eliminates the efficiency problem created for both agencies during the process, Pfeiffer said.

If found in violation of the nine ordinances, abusers would have to pay $150 for the first infraction, $250 for the second and $500 for the third, with a possibility of five to 90 days imprisonment. The sanitation department currently has four rangers that seek out violators, but the department told the Council that bad actors have figured out the warnings are just pieces of paper.

"Our focus will really be on debris [and] illegal putouts,” said Matt Torri, the director of the city’s sanitation department. “The most egregious situations are where we've attempted to seek voluntary compliance either from the business or the homeowner, and we're just not getting that.”

Unlicensed tour guides, and those that carry over 28 patrons, among other violations, could also receive violations.

City officials said only certain employees in Public Works, Sanitation, New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Ground Transportation Bureau and the Mosquito and Rodent Control Board would be given the authority.

The measure was handed down from Mayor LaToya Cantrell to City Council member Jay Banks to pass through the Council. The effort received several amendments from Council President Helena Moreno, who assured those attending the Council meeting that the deputized individual will not have a firearm while applying the fine or have arresting power.

The NOPD added that all deputized workers would be given a training course in de-escalation and on how to issue citations properly.

The measure will be read at Thursday's City Council meeting.

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