NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As additional state troopers get ready to hit the streets for Mardi Gras, another crime-fighting tool is being questioned by the man who paid for its rollout. Sidney Torres and members of the French Quarter Security Task Force squared off at a meeting Tuesday afternoon after Torres took out ads in newspapers questioning the way the force is run.
A heated exchange took place between Torres and Bob Simms, two men who once worked as allies to create the task force. The confrontation happened after Torres took out an ad in several newspapers blasting Simms and the NOPD for what he calls mismanagement of the task force.
"I was very hurt, very, very hurt," Simms said. "I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't."
"This system will be down the tubes in the next year-and-a-half if they don't start running it the way it was designed," Torres said.
The businessman put up a half-million of his own money to get the program off the ground. He even created an app for people to use to report crime. The app has a GPS device to track which officers are working at a certain time and location. The Polaris vehicles the officers drive also had GPS devices on them, which were switched out after a few months.
"I prepaid for that GPS for 12 months, $7,000. Halfway through, it was ripped out," Torres said.
"The main reason was, that the system that was installed originally only checked the position updates every two minutes. Well, in two minutes you can be across the Quarter," Simms said.
Simms also said that Torres would randomly show up with camera crews at locations where he knew officers would be.
"There is no evidence to show that," Torres said. "The only things that the cameras filmed was approved."
Torres questions the productivity of the officers, saying he doesn't see as many patrolling the streets. It's a fact that Simms disputes.
"Ninety-one percent of our shifts are filled. That's unheard of on a detail - unheard of," Simms said.
French Quarter business owners gathered at the meeting agreed that they've seen positive results from having extra officers on the streets. They hope the task force will continue it's work, despite the rift between the two men who helped create it.
Simms is a volunteer who runs the task force and doesn't get paid. We asked Torres if he'd want to take over the operation to run it the way he chooses, but he said no. He told us he would be open to hiring someone and training them.