NOPD promises strong police presence for Essence Fest and holiday events

Essence Fest visitors arrive in NOLA for big weekend

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The steamy days of early July in New Orleans will not deter hundreds of thousands of visitors from flocking to the city for the 4th of July holiday and the annual Essence Festival, and police say security will be strong.

New Orleans Police Supt. Shaun Ferguson said there will be a heavy police presence in the French Quarter and downtown areas.

"We have officers from every district that will deploy their officers to assist the 8th and 1st districts to patrol downtown as well as the convention center area,” said Ferguson.

He said because former First Lady Michelle Obama will be in town for the Essence Festival, the U.S. Secret Service is also involved in the planning.

"We have some federal entities that are also involved. We’ve also been working with, specifically Secret Service, due to some of the dignitaries that are in town for this huge event this weekend,” said Ferguson.

A number of the Democratic candidates for president are also scheduled to be at the festival over the weekend.

Ferguson joined other local and state officials outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a Wednesday morning news conference.

They urged drivers not to get behind the wheel if they are impaired.

Shawn Wilson, the head of the La. Department of Transportation said the goal is zero traffic fatalities.

"I want to encourage everyone to drive safely, to obey all the traffic laws, put down your cell phones first and foremost and do not drive distracted, drowsy or impaired, so that we can achieve our goal of destination zero deaths,” said Wilson.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman warned drivers that if they are caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their fun will be interrupted by a trip to the prison he oversees.

"The New Orleans Police Department or the La. State Police or any other law enforcement pulls you over you're going to come see me and on a very serious note you're not going to be able to enjoy the Essence Festival,” said Gusman.

The multi-day festival is good for local hotels, according to Kristian Sonnier, of the tourism entity, New Orleans and Company.

"We're looking at 93 to 95 percent occupancy over the weekend and that paces at about the same level that we were pacing last year,” Sonnier stated.

Short-term rental properties both in neighborhoods as well as in commercial areas of the city will benefit from some of the people coming to town for the Essence Festival.

Mason Harrison, of the hospitality company, Sonder, Inc., said weekend occupancy numbers for their short-term rental properties in commercial zones is impressive.

"It's been really incredible. We had close to 100 percent occupancy basically for every single night and that's across about 377 spaces where we're currently hosting guests across the city,” said Harrison.

He said it shows how both the hotel industry and short-term rentals can operate successfully.

"I think this is absolutely proof that both hotels and short-term rentals can co-exist, especially commercial short-term rentals and then overall the tourism pie is growing, and the economic pie is growing for New Orleans,” Harrison.

As the Essence Festival’s “party with a purpose” takes place, Ferguson says his department is great at crowd control and all that is needed is the public’s cooperation.

"We party like no other city, but we have to party with some sort of responsibility within ourselves,” said Ferguson.

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