Quarter businesses wary of tourism drop after Will Smith's death

Quarter businesses wary of tourism drop after Will Smith's death

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The shooting death of former Saints player Will Smith over the weekend brings out raw candor about the city's chronic crime problem.

In discussing Smith's death on FOX Sports Radio, New Orleans native and former LSU football standout Tyrann Mathieu, who currently plays for the  Arizona Cardinals, said crime concerns have him limiting the time he spends in his hometown.

"It's just the vibe I got when I landed in New Orleans. The culture is absolutely different," he said during the radio show.

Mathieu spoke passionately about the danger he perceives in New Orleans, and it is getting a lot of traction.

"It's so dangerous, I tell you, I fly in and I fly out of town. That's how scared I am. And this is where I came from. I love my city to death. But it's senseless," he said.

Alex Fein is with the French Quarter Business League.

"And that's not the first type of comment we've had in the national news in the last couple of years. This has been a growing problem for the past several years," said Fein.

Also Saints head coach Sean Payton in reacting to Smith's death told USA today: "I've heard people argue that everybody needs a gun. That's madness."

When high-profile athletes and coaches speak, the news media tends to listen and, in turn, their viewers, readers, and listeners. All of it highlights the violence that grips New Orleans. And businesses in the French Quarter say anything that could have tourists thinking twice about visiting New Orleans is never good.

"Any time New Orleans is in the news for a bad thing such as what happened over the weekend, it affects everybody - not just businesses, but the residents, as well," said Fein.

In the French Quarter, a special sales tax increase is currently funding additional State Police presence.

"It has seemed to improve a little bit, but we still have a ways to go," said Fein.

And in light of all of the media attention this week on the city's crime, we reached out to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for comment.

"What happened to Will Smith and his wife transcends a tourism issue. Crimes like this are abhorrent to us all, visitor and citizen alike. We hope that NOPD's investigations brings swift justice. Our thoughts are with the Smith family right now," said Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Still, many businesses that count on tourists worry about the fallout from the level of news coverage around the world on comments about fears of crime in New Orleans.

"Obviously, it's a concern of all of us who run businesses in the French Quarter because tourists come here first," said Fein.

The French Quarter Business Association also weighed in with the following statement:

"With the combined efforts of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Colonel Michael Edmondson of the Louisiana State Troopers, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Commander Jeffery Walls of the New Orleans Police Department's 8th District, the French Quarter has seen the most uniformed officers and troopers proactively patrolling the streets in years. The addition of fifty State Troopers and the French Quarter Task Force to the N.O.P.D. 8th District's efforts has ushered in an era of safety that the business owners and their employees recognize and welcome. These combined efforts have made a visible difference in the reduction of crime in the French Quarter."

Mathieu also suggested there is a shortage of New Orleans Recreation Department activities for inner city kids. The mayor's office said in an email response to our inquiry about that that NORDC provides safe, wholesome, educational, recreational and culturally engaging opportunities for the residents of New Orleans and "we look forward to engaging with Mr. Mathieu on how he can participate."

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