Anti-crime strategy--finally: It was all some could do to bite their tongues and keep from saying, "What took you so long?" as Police Chief Warren Riley professed to citizens congregated at Buffa's Lounge on Saturday that we all would see the lights--flashing blue lights on patrol cars as part of a new strategy the NOPD has embraced as a way of dealing with crime in the French Quarter.
Many residents for many years tried to get the NOPD to see the errors of its ways--not using flashing lights on patrol cars and not having officers on foot as deterrents to crime. Like a new convert, Riley on Saturday abandoned his mantra of blaming the NOPD's inadequacies on "not enough men" and ceased chanting that crime has gone down; no one believed those blasphemies anyway.
Instead, Riley, accompanied by high-ranking acolytes (Asst. Chief Marlon Defillo, Chief of Operations Kirk Bouleyas, Maj. Bernadine Kelly of the 5th District, and Maj. Edwin Hosli of the 8th District) plus numerous minions, outlined for the denizens of the 8th District the changes he has embraced since the first of the year.
New way: Here is what the NOPD is doing to curb crime in the Quarter. (These notes are cribbed from a memo Stephen Swain, president of Patio Planters, passed along from a meeting Riley, Hosli and Bouleyas had with the M.O.M. group on Friday. Most of the items were repeated for the Buffa's bunch on Saturday.).
- Added 17 officers to the 8th District (which patrols the Quarter, CBD and Marigny Triangle), which now has a contingent of 133 officers. The goal is to increase the total to 150 officers by June.
- Divided the 8th District into 4 segments to better manage patrol coverage.
- Trained 8 officers to operate the motorscooters for a more visible patrol.
- Initiated a new policy that no more than 2 officers plus 1 supervisor can be in a restaurant at the same time (even if the officers are from other districts) to avoid the perception the entire NOPD is out to lunch.
- Take a pro-active approach to stopping suspicious individuals.
- Establish a vice unit strictly to deal with prostitution and drugs in the French Quarter.
- Provide "hot sheets" for citizens to fill out to identify areas of illegal activity or where potential problems might occur.
- Purchased 2 new paddy wagons to use as "holding cells" so officers to not have to go to Central Lock-up after each arrest.
- Designated undercover officers to work with FBI agents to curb drug trafficking.
- Assigned a patrol car to exclusively monitor the Marigny Triangle.
- Instituted walking beats for every patrol officer, which means each officer must park his patrol car for one hour some time during his shift and patrol his area on foot.
- Suggested to officers that they make "positive contact" with citizens while on patrol.
- Outfitted each police car with an AVL device to monitor their location.
- Added an additional 10 to 12 reserve officers to help patrol in the Quarter on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
- Decreed that no more than 2 officers are permitted to congregate on any one corner.
- Required each officer to sign a "Supervision and Accountability" form to acknowledge that he knows where he is to patrol and will not leave that area without a supervisor's permission.
- Maj. Edwin Hosli, commander of the 8th District, at firstname.lastname@example.org. (This goes to his Blackberry 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.)
- Quality of life officers, who handle such things as streetlights out, abandoned cars, trash accumulating, etc.:
- Install a light outside your house. (A Vieux Carre Commission permit is required for a new light, but the director of the VCC say such permits will be fast-tracked and hassle-free. Submit a tearsheet or photo of several styles of simple "down lights" or historically appropriate wall sconces for the commission to review).
- Fix existing lighting. If you need of assistance with this, email Chuck Ransdell at email@example.com and he will arrange free assistance.
- Install a security camera. There are reasonably priced ones available. Go to www.QuarterSafe.com for suggestions.
- Report suspicious activity at 911. This gives the NOPD cause to stop and question suspicious people. Without a complaint, the police could be accused of "profiling."
- Report curfew violations. Monday through Thursday, the curfew for kids under 17 (not accompanied by an adult) is 9 p.m., and on weekends 11 p.m. (The police have the right to stop anyone suspected to be underage and ask for an ID.)
And another thing: The Buffa's bunch, while not formally named, more or less calls itself "Lower Quarter Citizens Against Crime." That's not to be confused with "Lower Quarter Crime Watch," and that's a shame, some say.