NEW ORLEANS - One year and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the French Quarter Nola civilian patrol is no more. The goal of the program was to put extra bodies on the street to tackle traffic and quality of life issues, so commissioned officers could focus on more violent and pressing crimes.
The Landrieu Administration is pulling the plug on the pilot program while public safety continues to weigh on the minds of New Orleanians.
"I love to walk to Antoine's or to Galatoire's or to the restaurants but I sure take a taxi home now. When I really don't want to do that,” said French Quarter resident Dr. Ralph Benson.
It's been many years since Benson and his wife felt safe walking at night through the French Quarter. These days their strolls happen mostly when the sun is still out.
“I feel like a target and 10 years ago, I didn't feel that way,” said Benson.
Public safety concerns run deep across the Crescent City. In response, the French Quarter Task Force Patrol created by Sydney Torres and the Nola Civilian Patrol were formed to help curb crime.
However, now the Nola Civilian Patrol is being disbanded. The original plan called for 50 civilians to be a part of that patrol with a specific purpose.
"To have civilians handle traffic and some quality of life complaints particularly in the French Quarter,” said Deputy Mayor of External Affairs Ryan Berni.
The Landrieu Administration confirms current laws, limited training of patrol members, and diverting funding for the program to other public safety priorities is why it is shutting down. Berni adds limitations on what the patrol could legally do were just some of the reasons the pilot program is being canceled.
“There were obviously some limitations in the law about the ability for them to do some of the quality of life enforcement particularly traffic enforcement that we wanted them to have and ultimately we made the decision to move in a different direction,” said Berni.
According to the New Orleans Police Department 12 employees currently with the Nola Civilian Patrol will work with the City's Civil Service Department to find new jobs.
Donovan Livaccari with the New Orleans Fraternal Order of Police isn't surprised to hear about the civilian-based patrol fizzling out.
"There were certain actions that they wanted this group to take that they just weren't legally authorized to do so,” said Livaccari.
Another drawback: the pilot program needed existing police officers to help train members of the civilian patrol. Right now, Livaccari says NOPD supervisors don't have enough time to train and watch-over their own commissioned officers.
“We need to be able to have more people on the street not only answering crime but providing supervision and construction to the commissioned officers. There's just no replacement for the commissioned officers,” added Livacarri.
The patrol was being paid for with about $800,000 from a hotel-motel self-assessment tax. The city says the money will be redirected to help fund public safety and infrastructure improvements in the French Quarter.