The New Orleans City Council has approved the creation of an unarmed civilian police force. The "Nola Patrol" squad will focus on enforcing traffic, zoning and other non-emergency laws in the French Quarter.
The oldest neighborhood in the Crescent City draws tourists and musicians alike. But it also continues to see unnecessary wear and tear.
"Frankly, what we have right now is the wild, wild, west. Where there aren't any consequences and you know if there's a rule you can ignore it, because nothing will happen to you if you do," said Meg Lousteau with Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA).
A police force that is spread thin means very little enforcement when it comes to panhandler, traffic violators and those skirting around code enforcement rules in the Quarter.
Now an ordinance approved on Thursday hopes to tackle the problem. It allows the Landrieu administration to team up with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau to create an unarmed citizen-based "Nola Patrol" in the Quarter. The squad funded by a voluntary hotel tax at most local hotels.
"It addresses an area that really hasn't gotten any attention in really decades and that's enforcement of some of the lower level violations that have really plagued the quarter," said Lousteau.
The NOPD anticipates a 6-week training period for that 50-person squad at its academy. The police department says training will likely begin early next year.
City leaders also agreed to have four additional commissioned NOPD officers assigned to Bourbon Street.
"The concept is good. Now it's a matter of making sure the implementation actually works to help the folks who are trying to help," said Councilman-at-Large Jason Williams of the citizen patrol concept.
Critics of the patrol say those tax dollars should be used to hire more police officers not ill-equipped citizens. However, Williams points out it is not so simple.
"Right now, even if we had excess money. You can't get officers through the program fast enough to grow it. So Nola Patrol isn't a waste of money. It's using money wisely to fill in some of those gaps," said Williams.
Nola Patrol would be supervised by the NOPD's Eighth District. A police spokesperson says specifics are being ironed out like how many vehicles or bicycles would be assigned to the squad and what shifts those citizens would work.