NOPD shifts 22 officers into gang intelligence unit - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

NOPD shifts 22 officers into gang intelligence unit


New Orleans, La.- The New Orleans Police Department is in the middle of another large re-deployment of officers, and placing them into new specialized units designed to crack down on gangs.

While some wonder if the city's gang problem is significant, the NOPD says the new approach has already produced results.

The officers are being pulled from districts and units across town, but while some worry, the NOPD says the new program actually puts more officers on the streets.

Fox 8 has obtained documents which show 22 officers being re-assigned from districts and units across town, and moved into new investigative bureau street gang units designed to make good on the city's 'NOLA for Life' initiative.

Back in May, Mayor Mitch Laundrieu said the initiative was designed, ' To build,  indict and prosecute violent gangs and drug lords in identified hot spots.'

Former FBI special agent Jim Bernazzani says the new gang unit has strong oversight from the Feds.

"It's my understanding there's two FBI, two ATF, two DEA agents and that's good," said Bernazzani.

The re-deployment pulls one officer out of special operations, one out of homicide, and two out of narcotics. While the re-deployment into gang units affects virtually every district, two districts are especially hard hit: the 4th in Algiers and the 7th in the East.

Algiers and New Orleans East Districts each lose four officers, the 6th and the 8th lose two, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Districts each lose one.

"When we look at the 7th ward, I have great concerns," said John Penny, Southern University at New Orleans Sociologist.

But NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden says, "The officers who make up the unit are not officers who responded to 'calls for service', but were previously assigned to district task forces to make traffic stops, conduct drug searches, etc," explains Remi Braden, NOPD spokeswoman. "The officers are deployed throughout the city. And that, normal district patrols will not suffer."

Bernazzani says the anti-gang effort will only be as good as the intelligence and the ability to respond quickly before crime occurs.

"The force multiplier is good intelligence disseminated to the man on the streets risking their lives," said Bernazzani.

And though some believe districts may suffer, the NOPD says the effort is working.

"Since its formation on November 4th, this unit has made 28 felony arrests, 15 gun arrests, 18 narcotics arrests and has executed 6 search warrants," said Braden.

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