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French Quarter business owners being terrorized by group of young people

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Some French Quarter business owners say they're being terrorized by a group of transient young people, commonly referred to as gutter punks. Just this week, one man even had a knife pulled on him. He and others on Decatur say it's the last straw and they want the group gone.

Surveillance cameras rolling outside Happy Hookah Wednesday night capture the encounter between employees of the shop and a couple young people walking by. While showing FOX 8 the video, manager Dominick Perricone explains, “There's a fella that comes walking by and knocks the bike over and then proceeds to stomp on the bicycle as opposed to apologizing for the incident.”

When Perricone's employee comes into view of the camera, he says, “He's questioning, man why would you step on my bike? And at about that time, he pulled the knife on us.”

Perricone tried to get between the fight and an SUV parked in front of the store. His wife and 10 month old daughter were inside the SUV. Perricone says of the knife wielding man, “He approaches the vehicle and stands within three, four feet of my wife with the knife waving.”

Cops arrived on the scene but the man with a knife fled.

Nearby business owners say they've been dealing with the group for years, but just recently, they've become more aggressive. Lily Santoso, owner of Java House Imports, says, “It's a nuisance and they can be very threatening and people are scared of them.”

Meredith Reynolds, manager of Jewel's Art, explains, “They're predatory with the tourists that we have here and they are always approaching them and asking for money and being very belligerent.”

Reynolds says it's gotten so bad, she's afraid to walk home at night from her store. “I'm accosted daily, nightly,” Reynolds said.

A number of the people who have daily interactions with the group don't believe they're actually homeless. Rather, they feel the young people choose to live on the streets, embracing a sort of transient lifestyle, getting by thanks to the kindness of strangers.

“They probably make more money than me today,” Santoso said.

Reynolds adds, “I see these kids with tablets that I can't afford, pulling out phones and electronics and tablets that I can't afford.”

With frustration mounting, French Quarter shop owners and employees agree something needs to be done. Dominick Perricone explains, “I truly believe in the future it's going to affect our tourism. The people that are here right now and are experiencing this, I don't think they're gonna sign up and have to deal with that again a year from now.”

Perricone says he'd like to see more NOPD officers on Decatur or a new curfew put into place for people who loiter there, in an effort to protect the business he works for, and some many others.

Perricone tells us the man who pulled a knife on him, as seen in the surveillance video, was arrested Saturday by police. Perricone says the man walked into Happy Hookah, at which time, he called 911.

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