NEW ORLEANS - From the looks of the lively 700 block of Bourbon Street Sunday night, you would have never know shots broke out there less than 24 hours earlier. Nine people were wounded, some of whom were visiting from out of town.
Tourists like Deanna Rogers were shaken.
“As a tourist, that actually could have been me,” said Rogers, of Oklahoma City
It’s the third major shooting on Bourbon Street in three years. And some say it could stop others from visiting the French Quarter.
“I have friends coming here in the fall, they may think twice about coming here,” said Tracy Pierce, of Philadelphia.
“My family was like blowing up my phone because we were on the way here for my husband's birthday, they're like ‘Are you still going, there was a shooting there last night,’” said Kathy Davis, of Tampa, FL.
But many tourists say the shooting won’t stop them from enjoying the French Quarter, although those like Rogers say they now plan to head back to their hotels before midnight.
“I would hate to make that be a depiction of New Orleans and Bourbon Street, but it does make you be a little more wise about coming and the day or the times that you would come,” said Rogers.
The crowd grew so large and unruly in the hours before the shooting Saturday, that she opted to return to her hotel, said Pierce. She said she’s not surprised at the shooting.
“I don't think there was enough police patrol for a Saturday night,” said Pierce.
Thousands more people are expected to pack Bourbon Street during Essence Festival next weekend. Police plan to beef up patrols in the French Quarter for the special event.
“This Essence Festival we're using an overtime package of about $300,000 to make sure there's more police officers in the French Quarter area,” said New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
But with dwindling police manpower, visitors and locals alike question whether there is enough police presence on weekends when there is not a major event.
“We have a serious problem here, and now it's going to affect the heart of what brings everybody into the city,” said longtime New Orleans cab driver Steve Daugherty. “This is the gem of the city, there's not enough police down here, anytime of the day or night.”
There were more than 25 officers working the French Quarter, Treme, and Marigny areas Saturday night, according to Serpas. That includes both the 8th district and the 1st district. Nine or ten officers were patrolling Bourbon Street on foot or on horse, said Serpas.
Three officers were within one block of the shooting and responded within seconds, he added.
“The tragedies of violence are impacting cities across our country, and while this is a crucial, challenging issue for our community we are encouraged by the initiatives and priority Mayor Landrieu and his administration have given it. The leadership of our industry shares the mayor’s commitment and focus. We are collaborating with the administration on the issue in general and the specific plans for security during the upcoming holiday and major gatherings in our city,” said Stephen Perry of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and Mark Romig of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation in a joint statement.
“Essence works closely with the City of New Orleans every year to ensure the safety of our Festival attendees. The New Orleans Police Department, along with the Louisiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies, will have an increased presence throughout the weekend and provide comprehensive security for festival goers. We are confident that the city is safe and prepared for the Festival,” said Essence Festival spokeswoman Dana Baxter in a statement.