Police Shortage is Mardi Gras Security Risk!!
This is only the second or third story that will go on both of my blogs. Crime and Mardi Gras do occasionally mix.
There are signs all over the French Quarter which state Caution: Walk in Large Groups. We (heart) N.O.P.D. We Just Need More. This isn’t a good sign for a city about to enter one of the biggest holidays of the year, Mardi Gras. Approximately 1 million visitors descend on New Orleans each Carnival season and most will hit the Quarter soon after arriving. They will be greeted by a French Quarter bathed in unsettling signs.
Security is a growing concern to many New Orleanians and Americans. When New Orleans is perceived as a dangerous place, less people make plans to visit. The streets of New Orleans during Carnival are full of state troopers, federal agents, virtually half the police force at one time, plus scads of private security personnel. Downtown there are a lot of weirdos that make it down to Mardi Gras also.
In the last 11 years, at least 27 people were injured and one killed on parade routes and Bourbon Street. That is one horrific statistic. Carnival has historically had a violent side. I personally have been very close on St Charles Avenue to a major shooting incident a decade ago. I’ve had very large groups with me at times and much smaller at other, but no one in my group has ever been accosted on the parade route or downtown or in Metairie or other parades around the metro area.
Another growing trend, private security cameras, have caught many of these assaults and shown the brazenness of the perpetrators. The variety of weapons employed is staggering. This footage shows up on YouTube and adds to our collective anxiety.
Since Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has lost about 500 officers, and I’ve written about this problem recently on my other blog about jail and justice in New Orleans here. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union, says I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops. Mayor Mitch Landrieu would like around 1,600 officers. I’ve authorized as much overtime as is necessary, says our Mayor.
The Mayor has personally felt the sting of crime very recently. One of his personal vehicles was stolen in front of his home over the weekend. The 2006 Jeep was recovered within blocks of his house by an off duty Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The Jeep was equipped with LoJack technology. The deputy was heading home across the Mississippi River bridge after finishing a 12 hour shift. His LoJack receiver in his patrol car picked up the signal. He called in the information and found out the car belonged to the mayor of New Orleans. He followed the signal and found himself near the 2nd District Police station. He stopped and checked in, then began pursuing the stolen vehicle again. He ran into the Jeep at General Taylor and Constance streets.
Turns out the New Orleans police never received the LoJack signal as Jefferson Parish did. Hmmm.
According Glasser, This shows crime is not limited to a handful of people in the traditionally ‘bad areas.’ Anybody can be a victim, and ironically, the victim in this case is the person screaming the loudest that crime is down. And while he admits there’s a staffing shortage, I think he underrates the importance of that.