NEW ORLEANS - After attack ads criticized the mayor for allowing crime to run rampant in the French Quarter, business owner Sidney Torres is putting his money where his mouth is with a new crime-fighting app that will go live next week.
"This is a special task force for special, proactive issues," says Torres.
Torres has teamed up with city leaders to fund more patrols in the French Quarter, along with an app that allows anyone with a phone to report crimes directly to those responding officers.
"I think we are the pioneers of this in the French Quarter, the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," Torres said. "I'm giving it to them to let them use it and show that it's going to work."
Bob Simms, the chairman of the French Quarter Management District Security Task Force, is overseeing the new task force and is confident this two-month long pilot program will be successful..
"It's absolutely going to work. Any time you put more police on the street it's going to deter crime," Simms said.
There are a lot of eye and ears out on the streets of the French Quarter, and Simms said this app will allow every one of them to get involved with community policing.
With just a few clicks, the app allows someone to report a crime, pick the intersection where it is happening, and even send a picture – all while remaining anonymous if they choose to.
But Simms said the app is not meant to replace 911.
"We are not having them do quality of life type things because you can tie yourself up with people urinating on the sidewalk and things like that," Simms said. "These are meant to be for real crimes."
To start, there will be three paid, off-duty NOPD officers patrolling three major sections of the French Quarter, with the exception of Bourbon Street. However, unlike other officers, they will patrol the area on Polaris ATVs that are equipped with police lights.
Simms says these added patrols will be in addition to the NOPD officers and state troopers already stationed in the quarter.
Now, whether they decide to use the app or not, residents and business owners says they like the idea.
"Three more cops on the street is great, because we need every one of them and we need them to be more visible," says French Quarter resident Arthur Smith.
"I think we should implement it ASAP," says Stephanie Dao, the owner of Croissant D'Or Patisserie. "We always have a problem with crime in the French Quarter and it's bad for the image of New Orleans."
If the pilot program is a successful, the patrols will continue to a tune of a half a million dollars a year, but Torres says he has already found businesses willing to fund it in the future.
For more on this story, click here to read more from our partners at the New Orleans Advocate.