NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Even before the shooting death of former Saints player Will Smith, deadly gun violence often thrust the city into the national spotlight. And on any given day, locals speak about their crime concerns and a desire for more police presence on city streets.
"It's elevated quite a bit. We need more police officers I do believe in the area, most definitely, yeah," said Kimberly Bell.
On Saturday, New Orleans voters went to the polls to decide a proposed property tax hike to pay to help put more NOPD cops on the streets.
"I just don't have a lot of faith in the way the police operate," said Nick Petr, who said he voted no on the so-called security millage.
"I'm disappointed that it did not pass. I have been in this department going on 25 years, I know exactly what this department needs, what this city needs, and so the mayor and I did speak about it. He's disappointed, as well - the entire department is disappointed because we're trying to build a department that is a lot larger than it is today," said Police Chief Michael Harrison.
Five-mills would have been dedicated to police protection, enabling the NOPD to recruit, hire and provide equipment for additional police officers, and to shrink response times that have been publicly criticized.
"We're trying to put 353 officers on patrol to respond to citizens' calls on a continual basis, that they will always be able to get to citizens in a seven-minute response on emergency calls, and we're trying to meet all the requirements of the consent decree," said Harrison.
Despite the millage failing, the police chief says the NOPD will continue to recruit new officers in a more limited way.
"We will still hire, we will still recruit, train and hire people, you know. I have money in our budget to hire 150 recruits this year. we're going to reach that goal, but this was an opportunity to grow the department much larger," Harrison said.
Harrison said he hears from citizens who want more police in their neighborhoods and the millage would have helped with that.
"The one question I get asked more than any other questions is when you're going to put more police officers in my district so that I can see them on my street. Well, that opportunity was here and now it has passed," Harrison said.
Two-point-five mills of the proposed tax would have benefited fire protection and generated funds for a multi-million-dollar City Hall settlement with fire fighters in New Orleans.
"Unless anything else changes, if nothing changes, fire fighters will now wait 30 years to get paid, all of their money, and that's not an option as far as I'm concerned, we have to find new revenues, some way shape and form," said Nick Felton, president of the Fire Fighters Association of New Orleans.
As for the police chief, he conceded he is back to square one.
"Yes, it does send us back to the drawing board, and so our team now has to always be smart about deployment," said Supt. Harrison.