FOX 8 Defenders: Gutter punks create concerns for health, safety in Quarter

FOX 8 Defenders: Gutter punks create concerns for health, safety in Quarter

They're known to be transient, sometimes aggressive, and groups of them are often seen lingering in the French Quarter. Residents worry that gutter punks have become more of a permanent fixture, and they're concerned about their health and safety.

"I didn't expect to ever have that feeling of being scared for my safety. I never experienced that until I moved here," explained one resident who asked not to be identified.  The single female tells FOX 8 she fears for her safety every day.  "Your heart's racing, and you're thinking, oh gosh, not today," she said.

She's concerned about the gutter punks or transients, many of them with animals, who tend to hang out on Decatur near Ursulines.  "When they first started to congregate really heavily here…and the more of them together, the more aggressive they get. I was walking down this way, and one of them stood up, a couple of them, and said ‘you don't need that,’ just getting right on me, and one of them actually pushed me into the wall," explained a resident. 

Neighbors believe these aggressive groups of men and women aren't so transient, or temporary.  Many feel they've become more of a permanent fixture, especially in the 1100 block of Decatur. A resident snapped a picture of one guy sleeping in an alcove, and what's more disturbing is an image of another man smiling as he urinated right in front of her. 

"I can't tell you how many times I've had to bleach my area right here to get their - whether it's them, or their dogs, and it's just so unhealthy, and why would we allow this to happen in any part of the city but here, where we have tourists all of the time," she said. 

In the daytime, tourists say intimidating gutter punks clog the Quarter's sidewalks. "It was hard to get around some areas. You had to step in the road to get around the sidewalk, and they weren't as friendly as I thought the Big Easy would be," explained a tourist from Michigan, who was in New Orleans for the first time.  Lining the sidewalks may not be illegal, but some say they've witnessed times when gutter punks are breaking the law. "One of them had broken into his car and was fast asleep in the front seat.  The guy wouldn't wake up so we called, we called the police, and the police had to drag him out of the car and they arrested him for trespassing," said a resident. 

Last year, the NOPD says the French Quarter task force security detail and the LASPCA conducted targeted enforcement in the Quarter.  "We will continue to work with business owners, residents and visitors in the French Quarter and across the city to address nuisance violation complaints as we receive them," said Tyler Gamble, NOPD communications director. 

Near the entrance to the historic French Market, neighbors say the area around a building at the corner of Decatur and Ursulines becomes a prime gutter punk hangout once the sun goes down.  "I've seen probably 20 of them at a time right here and along Decatur," said a resident.

It's vacant, vandalized, and a big area of darkness. Every light on the building is out. Residents say replacing the bulbs may help deter some of the gutter punk activity.  

Public records show Chandru Motwani owns the building at 1101 Decatur. He agrees gutter punks are a concern in the area and tells us the lights will be fixed this week. In addition, he says he's renovated the building's upper floors into high end apartments, and the main level, which is under construction right now, will be a restaurant serving Cajun cuisine once it's complete. 

If you've got a consumer concern, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397 or fill out an online complaint form. 

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