French Quarter residents eye unarmed civilian patrols

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans police are investigating two early morning armed robberies in the French Quarter.

One happened in the 1100 block of Bourbon Street. The other happened near the corner of Conti and Decatur just down the street from the Kerry Irish Bar where Steve Langr serves drinks.

"It's very frightening," Langr said. "You're almost scared to be in here if there's not a lot of people, if you're working in an establishment or if you're walking around."

Since November, there have been more than 60 armed robberies in and around the French Quarter.

Treme resident Gary Siverio said the crime problem has impacted the time of day he walks into the French Quarter to get his favorite pint of Guinness.

"It kills me to think that my city is under siege, right now, by the criminals, and it seems we are powerless to do anything about it," said Siverio.

Tuesday, French Quarter leaders met with the Landrieu administration for a second week in a row. They say progress is being made to hire an unarmed civilian patrol for the French Quarter. Twenty-six NOLA Patrol applicants are now undergoing background checks.

The city is also working with Bourbon Street business owners to hire off-duty police to beef up security during peak hours.

For now, business owners will foot the bill. Long term, the city is considering several options where French Quarter property owners and visitors would share the cost.

"I think we are generally in agreement," said Bob Simms, who chairs the French Quarter Management District's Security Task Force. "There's a lot of work to do yet to finalize those plans. But, I think we're making progress."

French Quarter leaders hope to meet with the city administration on a weekly basis to continue the dialogue on how to make the Quarter a safer place to live and visit.

Back at Kerry Irish Bar, both Siverio and Langr hope that happens sooner than later.

"Everything they could possibly do to bring more police presence in the French Quarter will help," said Siverio. "There's no doubt about that."

"They need to fix it right now, before there's irreparable damage," said Langr.


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