NEW ORLEANS - Thousands are arriving in New Orleans for Essence Festival and the Fourth of July weekend.
And as the crowds pick up, so is the police presence.
Officers and volunteers with the police department’s crime prevention unit gathered on Bourbon Street to give businesses and visitors pamphlets with crime prevention tips Thursday night. They say it's standard after a shooting, like the one in the 700 block of Bourbon Street early Sunday morning that claimed the life of 21-year-old Brittany Thomas and injured nine others.
Even before the horrific shooting, New Orleans police had planned to beef up their presence through the holiday weekend. 170 extra officers are patrolling the downtown area Thursday night, and 500 extra cops will patrol the area Friday through Sunday, said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
“We have funds available to use to ensure we not only have 500 officers, but we're supplementing that with $300,000 in overtime to ensure there is a very visible presence in and around the downtown core,” he said.
Plus, in response to Sunday’s shooting on Bourbon Street, 30 state troopers were assigned to patrol the French Quarter and surrounding areas through the weekend, as NOPD manpower declines.
That’s in addition to the 25 troopers Essence Fest hired for security.
Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bobby Jindal approved assigning 50 troopers to patrol the French Quarter and surrounding areas through Labor Day, also in response to the shooting on Bourbon Street.
“That will be boots on the street, whether they're walking this area, whether they're riding in patrol cars, whether they're doing proactive enforcement,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, state police superintendent. “For me to be able to support [New Orleans police] by putting additional troopers here, that’s a great thing.”
The troopers will also increase their presence on the Crescent City Connection to help control traffic and assist with accidents on the bridge.
It will be the largest long-term state police presence on the ground in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, said Edmonson.
Those in town for the weekend say any extra police presence makes them feel more secure.
“We were a little concerned initially, but when we came out last night, there was security, police patrolling the area,” said LaTonuia Knox, a visitor from Baltimore.
“It’s New Orleans and they're going to double down with police,” said Brad Walton, a visitor from Atlanta.
“I am grateful to Col. Edmonson for his commitment to assign 50 state troopers to New Orleans through Labor Day. The New Orleans Police Department has a longstanding partnership with the Louisiana State Police which has provided support every time we’ve made a request. The additional support today is a step in the right direction and we are hopeful that Governor Jindal will permanently assign additional state troopers to our city,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a written statement.
Edmonson said increasing the number of troopers or assigning troopers on the streets of New Orleans past Labor Day could put an undue burden on the force as a whole, since it operates in cities throughout the state.