Tourism Group Kicks In $2.5M For New Orleans Patrols
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans' tourism industry will put up $2.5 million to help fund extra Louisiana State Police patrols in the city beyond the Mardi Gras season.
State police and other law enforcement agencies traditionally help the city with beefed up Mardi Gras patrols. Now, with the city battling an uptick in violent crime and a busy spring tourism season, plans have been announced to fund overtime for troopers with money from the tourism industry. Hotel rooms also will be provided for troopers brought in from outside the city.
The plan was announced Tuesday by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. State police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said the $2.5 million will help him provide help to the city without hurting his own budget or compromising safety in other parts of Louisiana.
Stephen Perry, president of the NOCVB, said the state police help comes as the city looks beyond Carnival season, which ends on Mardi Gras, Feb. 17, to a busy spring. He said major conventions are planned in New Orleans throughout the spring. And other major spring events include French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
"We are running more than 90 percent (hotel) occupancy every weekend," Perry said.
The announcement comes as residents in and around the French Quarter — a tourist draw as well as a historic residential neighborhood — have expressed alarm over growing crime.
Last summer, a gunfight that broke out on tourist-heavy Bourbon Street killed one bystander — a visitor from Hammond, Louisiana — and hurt 9 other people. More recently, an Irish tourist was shot in another part of town.
Arrests have been made in each case.
Since November, a series of more than 60 robberies in the French Quarter have sparked demands for a greater police presence. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and police chief Michael Harrison acknowledge that the police force of less than 1,200 is well below the ideal number of 1,600, but say recruitment efforts are under way.
They have also announced a stepped up effort to draw retired officers into a reserve force.
– by AP Reporter Kevin McGill