French Quarter residents and business owners are praising the return of state troopers to the city Thursday. But their arrival isn't stopping the plans of some groups to protect the streets themselves.
For months, Bob Simms and other members of the French Quarter security task force brainstormed ways to keep the area safe. "We're still moving ahead, and we're going to implement the French Quarter patrols very shortly - this month," Simms explained.
Simms says off-duty NOPD officers will be paid to keep an eye on the Quarter. Before they hit the streets on March 25, a whole contingent of state troopers will come to town.
Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson says, "We're gonna have anywhere between 50 to 60 troopers here at all times."
The troopers arrive Thursday, and $2.5 million raised by the Convention and Visitor's Bureau will pay their overtime. They're coming from parishes all over the state. The troopers will be rotated out every few days. While they're here, they'll be put up in area hotels, paid for the by the Hotel and Lodging Association. Some local restaurants have even offered to help feed them.
"They're going to be walking, they're going to be in uniform, you're going to be able to see them," Edmonson said.
While their primary focus is on the French Quarter, Edmonson says his men and women will also be fanned out throughout the CBD, Bywater and Marigny. If they're needed in another part of the city, they'll go. Edmonson says, "They'll be at the beck and call of the New Orleans Police Department."
The Colonel believes he has enough money to keep the troopers here through the end of the year. It's a plan NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison fully supports. "We are always sitting down talking, always working on a long term plan to see how this deployment strategy will work long into the future," Harrison said.
Bob Simms says the business people he knows are still willing to shell out their own cash, to fund private patrols. But the addition of state troopers is priceless. "Any time we can put some more visible police presence on the street, that's good news for everybody," Simms commented.
The troopers will patrol on foot and by car. They'll also have a presence on the interstate system in and around New Orleans, in another way to assist the NOPD.