The French Quarter is a New Orleans jewel that attracts people from around the world.
But the June 29 shooting spree on the Quarter's most famous street spawned global headlines, and now people living and working in the Vieux Carre are calling for more police presence. If Mayor Mitch Landrieu gets his way, New Orleans cops assigned to the Eighth District will get assistance through "NOLA Patrol."
"The NOLA Patrol is designed to relieve some of the stress and the strain of the Eighth District because of the high volume of calls for services. It will allow the Eighth District officers to focus on more serious and violent offenses, more of the serious property offenses," said Supt. Michael Harrison of the New Orleans Police Department.
The unit of civilians that would be known as NOLA Patrol would be funded with a hotel/motel tax that the legislature said hotels in the area can voluntarily assess for French Quarter services.
Chief Harrison said the 50-person unit would handle non-emergencies and would not be armed.
"Maybe some very minor non-injury traffic accidents, maybe some ingress and egress in and out of the quarter where they can control some of that and there will be a high force of visibility to deter some of the crime that is down there," he said.
People in the French Quarter began responding to the idea after it was released in a city hall press release Thursday evening.
"Our board is eager to get more details, but from what we've seen so far there's a lot to like in this plan," said Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of the Vieux Carre' Property Owners, Residents and Associates group.
She said there is room for more response to smaller crimes.
"There has been a wide variety of crime going on in the quarter, and most of it never reaches the level where you hear about it in the media, you only hear about the really big things, but it's the daily things, the muggings and the other violent crime attacks that have your average citizen concerned," she said.
Chief Harrison said NOLA Patrol members would be easily distinguished from bonafide NOPD officers.
"They'll be very distinctly uniformed, their uniform will be very different from ours," he said.
"This is a bad idea, it's not carefully thought through," said Michael Glasser, President of the Police Association of New Orleans.
He said what the mayor wants to do runs afoul of state law.
"There is a host of state statutes that govern who can investigate traffic crashes, who can issue citations, who can direct traffic, who is qualified to testify in criminal and civil court with respect to accidents and responsibility," said Glasser.
"The police are still there, and the police will be responding to anything that they need help for, so they'll be able to call us if they need us," said Harrison.
He said there is hope that some of the NOLA Patrol members would eventually wear the NOPD badge.
"Some of them may aspire to be police officers, and this may be a segue into our recruit system," said Harrison.
Glasser said the mayor is undermining the police force.
"He's denied a raise to the New Orleans Police Department, I don't what his goal is but it seems that everything he does is designed to undermine the department and drive officers out and he's being successful in during that," said Glasser.