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Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS-- Each year, dozens of Carnival parades dazzle people from all over the city, the country and the world.

It's part of the reason New Orleans police take security along the routes so seriously.

'We have officers who are specifically targeting those who we suspect are carrying a gun. And if you're carrying a gun, you're going straight to jail,' said New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

So far this year, New Orleans police have arrested 17 people for carrying a gun within a 1,000 feet of a Carnival parade. One of those happened just this past weekend: police arrested Carlos Williams, 22, after they found him carrying a handgun as a parade rolled Uptown on Saturday night.

According to state law, that is a felony. However, two days later, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office struck a deal with Williams, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to nearly six months in jail.

'The policy of this office is of removing those misdemeanors from the (Orleans Parish Criminal District Court) -- let those judges deal with the more serious felony charges, the acts of violence,' said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Cannizzaro said Williams did not have a prior criminal record, which is taken into consideration when deciding whether to pursue such arrests as a felony or a misdemeanor.

He also said the move to municipal court helped expedite the case, going from an arrest to a guilty plea in two days.

The felony law came on the books after several high profile shootings along parade routes in New Orleans, including one where seven people were shot on Mardi Gras Day in 2009 along the Uptown route. Afterwards, the state legislature took action.

'You know, sometimes we find that much of the legislation passed is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to some activity that takes place, especially in New Orleans. I've always felt we have enough laws on the books,' Cannizzaro said, when asked if it was worth the legislature going through the effort to pass the law.

In the meantime, police are slightly outpacing the number of gun arrests along parade routes this year, when compared to the previous two Carnival seasons. Just how many end up being pursued as felonies remains to be seen.

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