Back in 2010, the city decided to cut its corrupt crime program for good. But the city’s crime cameras are still using electricity and New Orleanians are paying for it.
Former Mayor Ray Nagin's crime camera system was widely considered a boondoggle, costing the city as much as $10 million over seven years, with little, if any, impact on crime.
And just months into office, Mayor Mitch Landrieu pulled the plug on the program, sort of.
The cameras have since sat stagnant. No one monitored them. No one took them down. And no one turned off the electricity.
Meanwhile, the utility bills from Entergy racked up. Documents reviewed by 4 Investigates show the city had electricity running to 359 camera or repeater locations. Each of these cost $14 a month. And in all, the city paid more than $59,000 a year.
In today's time of belt-tightening and budget cuts, that's money for another cop, a firefighter, or a code enforcement officer. Maybe even a couple.
At this rate, the city has paid more than $118,000 in utility bills to cameras that are considered extinct.
We called City Hall earlier this week and a spokesman said he was not aware of the issue and would look into it.
This evening, a Landrieu spokesman said: “We continue to work with Entergy to reconcile the books..."
Ryan Berni also said the city is trying to develop a long-term plan for a potential camera program.
Today, a handful of the cameras are semi-operational. That number is shifting though; and low enough that you could tally them on your hands and toes.
It's far below the Nagin's fantasy of a 1,000-plus cameras helping catch criminals.
In fact, the program ensnared more criminals in City Hall. Four officials who ran the camera program have been convicted in federal court of camera-related corruption.
That's more than the three violent street crimes caught by the cameras themselves.
A 2009 Inspector General report deemed Ray Nagin's crime camera program a colossal failure. The IG found that about $4 million had been wasted on City Hall self dealing.
For their part, Entergy said they are working with the City to resolve the billing situation, just as they would with any paying customer.