New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu — backed by a crowd of politicians, police officials and business leaders — presented a new French Quarter security plan on Wednesday, March 25 on the steps of the 8th District police precinct on Royal Street.
The city’s plan includes reassignment of task force and reserve officers to the 8th District (which encompasses the French Quarter, the Central Business District and a portion of the Marigny), as well as additional Louisiana State Police troopers, NOPD detail officers, and civilian quality-of-life officers.
“The French Quarter is an important economic engine for the city, region and state, and we will all have to do our part to ensure that it is a healthy and vibrant neighborhood,” Landrieu was quoted as saying. “We all have skin in the game, so I am confident this will be successful. Additionally, ensuring the French Quarter and 8th District get resources from the Louisiana State Police also ensures that we can more adequately staff the rest of the city with NOPD officers.”
An average of 10-12 uniformed State Police officers will be assigned to the French Quarter and neighboring areas each night, officials said, increasing to upwards of 60 on “peak weekends.” The LSP has been hesitant to station troopers on foot patrol in the city permanently due to funding and manpower concerns, but the detail will be funded by $2.5 million from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. State Police will also increase the number of officers from Troop B, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and Department of Public Safety Police (a separate force under the aegis of the LSP).
There has also been progress with the city’s NOLA Patrol civilian officer program, according to a detailed press statement released by the mayor’s office — about 12 officers have been hired, with others undergoing background checks, and will soon start a five-week training program. The officers are expected to be “active on the streets” sometime in May.
The French Quarter has been the locus of a number of high-profile violent crimes since a mass shooting last year on Bourbon Street that claimed the life of a woman and injured nine more. Just this past Saturday, March 21, two men were shot at the intersection of Bourbon and Conti Streets, a block away from the 8th District station.
20-year-old Bruce Sims was transported to the hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds, while a 28-year-old man who was wounded is said to be recovering.
City and state officials were joined by private businessmen at the press conference, including Sidney Torres IV — who at one point operated the French Quarter trash and street-cleaning concession. Torres bought TV ads earlier this year excoriating the Landrieu administration for failing to protect the Quarter, but canceled them after meeting with the mayor and police chief.
Now Torres is taking a more active role in French Quarter safety: he committed to donating three Polaris miniature patrol vehicles, and money to cover four detail officers for two months, beginning Wednesday night. The city says the value of the patrol vehicles and officer details is approximately $100,000.
Torres also introduced a new smartphone app that will enable people to report crimes with photos directly to the LSP and the NOPD. It’s unclear exactly how the app will be monitored, or by whom, or how often — but a television commercial (featuring the music of Lenny Kravitz, a long time Torres friend) shows notifications appearing on a screen mounted in one of the Polaris patrol vehicles.
Longer-term, the mayor, city council and state representatives are proposing the creation of a new Economic Development District, which would enable the imposition of an additional quarter-cent sales tax within the confines of the French Quarter. Officials estimate the additional sales tax would generate about $2 million a year, “paid overwhelmingly by tourists,” to fund a long-term deployment of 45 LSP troopers, or 10-12 per shift.
The development district must be approved by the state legislature, and by voters in the French Quarter, before being enacted. If passed, the city estimates the program could “begin in earnest” in January 2016.
“I'm happy we have reached an agreement to provide additional law enforcement resources here in the French Quarter,” said State Senator Ed Murray. “This hopefully will make the French Quarter safer and allow additional NOPD resources to make other parts of the City safer as well.”
The $2 million raised by the Economic Development District would be supplemented by funding from other public and private city organizations, including:
- $500,000 each annually from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tourism Marketing Corporation, and possibly the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (the state agency that owns the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Smoothie King Center, and Zephyr Field)
- $1 million annually from the Morial Convention Center
- $500,000 annually from the city’s portion of the money handed over by the CVB for the NOLA Patrol security and maintenance program.