NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Whether or not there will continue to be extra security patrols in the French Quarter is now in the hands of voters. City leaders say they've seen a 35 percent drop in crime in the Quarter thanks to more boots on the ground in the form of state troopers, NOPD officers and Polaris Patrols set up by businessman Sydney Torres. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu says that could all go away if voters don't approve a sales tax increase.
"If this thing does not pass on Saturday, we are going to go back to the drawing board," he said. "Those Polaris vehicles will probably go away, the task force will crash as we know it and we will have to find a way to reconstitute the resources necessary, because you can not have something for nothing."
French Quarter voters will decide in Saturday's election whether or not to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase. If approved, the money will help fund the extra patrols for another five years.
"Keeping this structure in place ensures that we don't have to take officers from other parts of the city to police the French Quarter," said NOPD Chief Michael Harrison. "It means I can continue to put manpower like our 16-person task force in other parts of the city to address violent crime, while keeping the officers assigned to the French Quarter in the French Quarter at all times."
"Here's the bottom line for the people that want to visit this state: They come to New Orleans, they've got to feel safe so that they can go visit the rest of the state and see our greatest assets - that's y'all, the people," said Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson.
The mayor expects the sales tax increase to generate about $2 million. That will be matched with another $2.5 million and will pay for a minimum of 30 state troopers to help the NOPD and private details patrol the French Quarter.
The mayor says if the sales tax increase passes Saturday, if someone spends $100 in the French Quarter, 25 cents of that will go toward funding that added security.