FQ group using 'safety-in-numbers' strategy to avoid violent crime

FQ group using 'safety-in-numbers' strategy to avoid violent crime

Across the French Quarter, hundreds of surveillance cameras scan the streets 24/7 – forming an around-the-clock hi-tech blanket of security. Now, a growing network of people is strengthening the constant watch over the area.

"Residents, service industry workers, tour guides, bartenders, you name it," said Stephen Clark, a Quarter resident.

Clark is one of hundreds of people who make up the group Safer Quarter. Harnessing the instant connectivity of Facebook, together, they're on-guard against violence in the city's most famous neighborhood.

"We post hot spots for crime. If there's a mugging, we know about it immediately," Clark said.

With numerous armed robberies and other violent crimes striking the Quarter in recent weeks, the reports keep rolling in. For group members who work in the service industry, the situation is unnerving.

"Criminals can tell if someone is in the industry by the way they're dressed. They know they're carrying cash. That makes them a target," Clark said.

To combat that, the group's effort goes beyond sharing intelligence. Members often meet up late at night, forming groups to move safely between locations.

"Getting off work at the same time, (workers are) either walking to their cars, walking to the bus stop, street car stops, maybe walking to their homes in the French Quarter, but definitely sticking together as far as, safety in numbers," said Federico Barrera, who works as a concierge and tour guide in the Quarter.

"You've got to sometimes remind your buddy to be smart. You don't need to be walking down the street when there's no one there," said Brad Bohannan, owner of French Quarter bars Turtle Bay & Spirits On Bourbon.

As the violence continues, and with no end in sight to the NOPD's manpower struggles, Safer Quarter members say they'll stay focused on watching one another's backs.

"People are scared. They're scared to leave their homes. They're scared to walk down the street and concerned about leaving work, going home," Barrera said.

Bartender Sean Dempsey agreed.

"I've been to a few community meetings where it seems everything is caught up in red tape and it's all about money, and I'm all about safety," he said.

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