Council shelves vote on plan to hire unarmed officers for Quarter

Council shelves vote on plan to hire unarmed officers for Quarter

Amid ongoing concerns over violence across the French Quarter, some people believe the proposed NOLA Patrol program could make a difference.

The plan calls for dozens of unarmed civilian patrol personnel who would handle things like traffic control and quality of life issues.

"The scheme right now is for 50 officers who would work around the clock. So, three shifts a day, seven days a week," said Meg Lousteau with the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates.

Lousteau and some other neighborhood leaders believe the program would bring more law enforcement visibility and allow NOPD 8th District officers to focus more on serious crimes.

"The mere presence of these [NOLA Patrol officers] is going to help with the crime problem in the Quarter," Lousteau said.

On Thursday, the City Council deferred a vote on the plan that uses money dedicated from a hotel tax. The program would also pay for various improvements to the area. Carol Gniady, who heads up the group French Quarter Citizens, thought the measure would sail through.

"I'm shocked and surprised because this was an excellent opportunity to address the real core quality of life issues," she said. "Who could possibly be against fixing the streets, fixing the sidewalks, fixing the lights, improving the police presence in the French Quarter?"

Several weeks ago, the French Quarter Business League decided to pay for its own off-duty officers to patrol Bourbon Street.

At Thursday's council meeting, Chris Young, an attorney for the group, argued that the NOLA Patrol plan doesn't do enough to address security concerns in the area.

"People are being attacked, robbed, maimed every night," Young said. "How can [NOLA Patrol] be justified when there is a crisis every night in the French Quarter, and this council is going to authorize the hiring of 40 patrol officers to direct traffic when those monies could be used to hire off-duty police officers?"

City officials and NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison stress, however, that NOLA Patrol would not get in the way of hiring more officers.

"We still want to be able to hire police officers and have high visibility and deal with the crime issues on Bourbon Street and the Quarter and the downtown area, and so this frees us up to do that," Harrison said.

Some council members also raised questions about the plan's coverage area, which would only handle patrols on the French Quarter side of Canal Street.

The council is scheduled to take up the issue again at its Nov. 6 meeting.

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