Different crime meeting, same concerns as residents ponder their options

New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas wants state troopers to permanently patrol city interstates. It was one of several key points made at Wednesday meeting to address crime in the French Quarter and Treme.

"It's a damn dangerous place to live," said one resident. "I'm scared to leave my house at night."

Another large crowd turned out for yet another crime meeting. Residents' concerns and reactions from officials were similar to those shared at numerous other meetings over the past few weeks.

The NOPD manpower shortage remains a primary focus.

"When Jeff Walls took over the Eighth District three and a half years ago, there were more than 160 police officers in the Eighth District," Serpas said. "Today, we have a little bit under 100."

Serpas said one recruiting class is underway, and he expects to have two more by the end of the year. He also spoke out about the need for a change in State Police policy regarding interstate patrols in the city.

"We have asked multiple times for the state of Louisiana, above Col. Edmonson, to direct and allow the State Police to handle the interstate system in New Orleans, which would save us four to six cops every day, all day," Serpas said.

For now, the extra trooper patrols in the French Quarter and other areas will continue until Labor Day.

Various neighborhood business and resident groups are still considering paying for extra security details.

"Hopefully in the next week or two we'll get some real decisions," said Bob Simms, a member of the French Quarter Management District's security task force. "I hope it happens because, as you heard tonight, there's just not enough police to go around, and this is one way we can have some additional police presence."

Meanwhile, Serpas points to another problem.

"If you want to really wrap your brain about what's going to drive violent crime reduction in the city of New Orleans, it's these officers not having to arrest the same people over and over and over again for carrying a gun on our streets," he said. "Read our press releases. We send them out every day. That is what's going to drive violent crime down."