Zurik: Fairgrounds residents call for accountability after ‘Attention to the Details’ investigation

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 10:00 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Residents of the fairgrounds neighborhood of New Orleans are calling for accountability after FOX 8′s Attention to the Details Investigation found possible neglect in patrols.

The patrols were promised in a city ordinance that allowed the Fair Grounds Race Course to have slot machines with one stipulation -- the Fair Grounds must ensure that two off-duty New Orleans Police units patrol the neighborhood 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

But the FOX 8 series on ‘Attention to the Details’ raised questions about whether officials actually patrol the area neighborhood. Neighbors have complained for years that they don’t see police officers patrolling. Residents even raised that question at a 2019 Fair Grounds Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting, bringing up concerns the patrols are rarely seen and not responsive to residents.

“They literally blow us off,” Morgan Clevenger, neighborhood resident, said. “And now that this story has come out, we’re not here to pass any judgment on who is doing what. But if the patrols haven’t been patrolling the fairgrounds, Churchill Downs has a responsibility not only to the neighbors, but to the ordinance that was created for them to have that license. And they need to be in compliance.”

The New Orleans Police Department told neighbors at that meeting the officers were patrolling. But years later, our stories lead residents to believe NOPD wasn’t telling them the truth.

“You know, at the end of the day, I feel like it’s no accountability from the highest point to the lowest point,” Krissean McClarty said. “And that’s just what we’re seeing, and we, the residents who live around here, we have to deal with the consequences of that.”

The residents are angry with the Fair Grounds who agreed to stipulations in the ordinance to operate the gaming machines.

“Churchill Downs [the owner of the Fair Grounds] is failing the community,” McClarty said. “We’ve asked them to patrol the neighborhood as a stipulation of them owning that casino and they haven’t been around.”

“Well, if their patrol is not happening, then they’re not in compliance,” Clevenger said.

The Fair Grounds Race Track and Casino did not respond to FOX 8′s request for a comment or interview for this story.

Garmanne Mack has lived in the neighborhood since 1971.

“We have the number [to the neighborhood patrol]. Sometimes they’ll answer, sounds like they’re sleeping depending on the time of the day. Sometimes they don’t answer,” Mack said.

She said it is time for the Fair Grounds to be a good neighbor and be in compliance with the rules they agreed to more than a decade ago.

“[I am] very mad, extremely mad,” Mack said. “Because we put our faith in the Fair Grounds when we agreed to that casino and they’ve wanted us to make changes to give them additional hours to make the changes with the new betting.”


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