NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A local crime camera advocate and watchdog sounds a warning about a lack of police presence in the French Quarter.
The founder of ProjectNOLA says weekend troop strength was so weak that a supervisor responded to a call on foot without assistance from State Police, who have pulled out for now.
When former mayor Ray Nagin invested millions of dollars in a crime camera program that didn't work, ProjectNOLAola and Bryan Lagarde stepped in.
"What we are hearing more of, are citizens calling here, and asking 'what do I do? I'm calling for police and nobody's coming,'" he said.
Six years ago, Lagarde linked together dozens of cameras across town to watch criminals, especially in the French Quarter. He estimates he helps police as many as eight times a day solve crime. He is also a chronic listener of police radios.
"What they don't hear is they're working, they're struggling, they're working their tails off, jumping from call to call to call," Lagarde said.
Saturday night and into Sunday morning, Lagarde noticed a problem with backlogs, that got especially bad around 4 a.m., when a call came in concerning an aggravated battery, and there were no patrol officers to respond.
"We were listening as rank, without a car, ran from the district station to the 900 block of Bourbon to handle something in a backlog for 15 minutes," Lagarde said.
Lagarde said the call was eventually downgraded to a battery.
Brian Palmquist has has lived and worked in the 900 block of Bourbon for the past 15 years.
"If I call 911, it's a wait, and the people causing trouble know that too," said Palmquist, who works as a bartender in the French Quarter.
"During the time I was monitoring Saturday to Sunday, I didn't hear any state troopers," Lagarde said.
Turns out, state troopers left the Quarter after Mardi Gras. Troop B spokeswoman Melissa Matey says a new agreement to provide long-term protection should be announced soon at City Hall.
Lagarde praises the NOPD for recent recruiting efforts, but he and others say that if attrition isn't addressed, recruiting will be all for naught.
"We're still losing officers at the rate of one every 60 hours. They can't graduate officers fast enough to make up the difference," he said.
Palmquist added, "I totally agree, it's not a matter of them saying we're not going to show up - they're tied up on other issues. There's not enough of them."
And he, and others, would like to see veterans retained as we push for new recruits.
Lagarde says manpower was weak Saturday night, but NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble says they had 14 supervisors and officers on duty.
Lagarde has offered to help the NOPD set up real-time camera monitoring, but so far, that offer has gone nowhere as the NOPD pushes its Safecam camera program.