JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - On the eve of a massive free festival in the French Quarter, the NOPD is cracking down on transient youth. It's part of the effort to keep people safe as more than 200 officers prepare to saturate the area with coverage.
Wednesday afternoon, FOX 8 shot exclusive video of the crackdown. NOPD 8th District Cmdr. Jeff Walls explains, "What we're doing is going out and looking for those individuals who are committing the crimes, the aggressive solicitors, the ones that are harassing people."
Eight different officers worked Wednesday with the SPCA to locate transient youth, commonly referred to as gutter punks, and put them behind bars if they were in fact, committing a crime.
Dominick Perricone, who manages Happy Hookah in the quarter, says their presence scared residents and tourists for years. He witnessed a similar crack down last week. "They literally cleared the whole block in less than 10 minutes, it's phenomenal," Perricone said.
Perricone believes the timing couldn't be better, just ahead of the French Quarter Festival. Last year, over 700,000 people attended. "It's great to feel safe, to truly, truly feel safe," Perricone commented.
French Quarter Fest Director Marci Schramm says that's the goal for all fest goers, with over 200 officers stationed in the quarter. "This weekend we look forward to having them out in force. We have lots and lots of officers on horseback, on scooters, on foot," Schramm said.
Overtime money will be used to pay a number of the officers. That money is also funding the effort to address quality of life issues, like the transient youth. "We're able to focus some of our attention on some of these nuisance type violations that were getting pushed to the back burner because we had higher priorities on our list," Walls explained.
And the department is getting some help. Not only are state troopers in the quarter, but the French Quarter patrols, using off duty officers, funded by businessman Sidney Torres, are also aiding in the effort.
22 arrests were made during last week's round up, with 28 charges being brought against the people arrested. Cmdr. Walls says Wednesday could yield similar results.