NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A big drop in French Quarter crime comes just as thousands get ready to head there for Essence Fest.
Gerald Holland had no worries booking a trip to New Orleans. "We're a church group, we prayed up, we've got a lot of kids, we feel good, safe," Holland said.
Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson says all visitors coming to town for Essence Fest should feel secure, as the French Quarter is seeing an almost 40 percent reduction in crime compared to this time last year.
"As of 6 a.m. this morning, 693 arrests we've made in the French Quarter in just a little over three months," Edmonson said.
Additional boots on the ground are supported by the French Quarter Task Force, which just received funding to keep it in operation. Bob Simms with the French Quarter Management District explains, "The city helped set up an agreement with the Convention and Visitors Bureau where the hospitality industry will provide the funds going forward."
People who live and work in the Quarter say ever since the shooting on Bourbon Street last June in which one person was shot and nine wounded, they've witnessed a ramped-up effort to keep locals and visitors safe.
"It's getting better and I can see where there has been problems, but at this point everybody's pretty focused on making a safe consumer experience," said Joseph Parrino, owner of Fleur de Paris.
Others say more work needs to be done.
"I really don't feel there's safeness on the outskirts like Decatur Street and Rampart Street. I feel really unsafe there," Roux Royale employee Ellen Pattison said.
State Police say they are making headway. In fact, in the past three months, Col. Edmonson tells FOX 8 that 65 weapons were confiscated, almost $700,000 worth of illegal narcotics were seized and 93 stolen vehicles recovered. Edmonson says with time, they'll be able to yield even greater results. For now, in the days leading up to a major tourism event for the city, he's pleased that people who visit the French Quarter will be able to have additional peace of mind. That includes Gerald Holland and his family. "We're just gonna have a good time, we don't have any fear at all," Holland commented.
In October, French Quarter voters will be asked to consider passing a quarter cent sales tax to fund additional state police presence in the Quarter long term. Part of that package includes once again allocating money from the hospitality industry to the task force, which Bob Simms says, is a vital crime fighting tool.