New private service taking over New Orleans accident response

Updated: Apr. 4, 2019 at 4:30 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A St. Claude business incubator has partnered with a new company whose goal is to eliminate wait times for people who get in car accidents in New Orleans. The New Orleans Police Department hopes the private firm will free up manpower, but a crime watchdog has concerns.

The new company, called On Scene Services, grew out of a a business incubator called Club Discovery, and for the past 90 days it has had officers on the street handling routine car accidents.

“We’ve deployed cars around the city, and we’re using retired, reserve and active police officers,” said Ethan Cheramie, the head of OSS.

The service is in a trial period, but could grow quickly. Company officials hope to hire as many as 40 off-duty, reserve or retired officers, handling car accidents in a city where accident wait times can often run into several hours.

“This is an unknown. There’s some risks involved in it,” said Rafael Goyeneche with Metropolitan Crime Commission.

On Scene Services said they are only going to employ accident investigators with experience, but Goyeneche said more officers would be a better solution.

“One of the more volatile concerns they respond to are traffic stops. You never know what they’re going to get,” said Goyeneche.

OSS said so far, New Orleans police have responded quickly when needed.

“Out of calls we’ve done, we got NOPD backup on 10 percent of those calls,” said Cheramie.

Goyeneche also worries about what happens in court.

“It remains to be seen how these reports will be accepted in court as these cases are adjudicated,” he said.

OSS said it uses the same reports as the police department, and it says its crash responders are qualified to testify in court.

Private, on-scene investigators will not issue citations. That will still be handled by NOPD after they review the private firm’s report.

“Our agents produce a narrative and give an indication of fault, which is authorized by a supervising officer,” said Cheramie.

The city is not paying for the accident investigators. OSS says its reports will be made available to the public through the city at standard fees, or through their company at a cost not to exceed $40. But OSS plans to make money in other ways.

"We make our revenue in data sales to insurance carriers," said Cheramie.

But some worry about those costs being passed on to consumers.

Goyenche said if it was not for the police manpower shortage, there would be no need for this service. He believes the department is still about two to 300 officers shy of what is needed.

Meantime, OSS is hiring. If you’re a retired or reserve officer, you can give them a call. They say pay is around $20-$25 an hour.

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