French Quarter security tax hike brings opposition from officers

Updated: Mar. 30, 2015 at 9:58 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A proposed sales tax increase in the French Quarter has some NOPD officers singing the blues.

"We'd like to see the city focused on rebuilding the NOPD instead of constantly being focused on applying these temporary band-aid solutions," Fraternal Order of Police attorney Donovan Livicarri said.

Livicarri believes Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to beef up security in the French Quarter leaves NOPD officers feeling left out. Landrieu is pushing for a quarter of a penny sales tax increase in the French Quarter for the next five years to pay for state troopers to patrol the area. The hike would only affect businesses in the Quarter and is expected to bring in $4 million per year.

Livicarri said he does not mind troopers helping out NOPD's depleted force. He wants Landrieu to put money into his own department in order to keep NOPD officers on the force instead of finding ways for taxpayers to pay for another agency to patrol.

"I don't have any problem with the salaries that the State Police make. But they just got a 20 percent raise, and the New Orleans Police Department barely mustered up a five percent raise," Livicarri said.

People who work and live in the Quarter show signs that they need help immediately.

"For the last five or six months, security has been an overwhelming problem in the Quarter," French Quarter Business League president Alex Fine said. "I think it's driving people away from coming down there, especially later at night when it gets a little more dangerous."

Fine is working with NOPD to bring more off-duty detail to the Quarter. In the upcoming weeks, the organization is expected to pay for about eight more officers a night to patrol the Bourbon Street area. Last week, NOPD Chief Michael Harrison backed the mayor's plan. He said his department needs help even if it does send money to other agencies.

"They're our brothers in law enforcement. They've been a partner with us for over 35 years, coming to help us in the French Quarter, and this is no different. Our officers, I believe, really embrace the help because we need the help. As we grow, that will change," Harrison said.

There will be a meeting to discuss the issue on April 23.

In October, residents will vote on the proposed tax hike.

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