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N.O. city leaders lay out their plan to keep Mardi Gras safe

“If you see an NOPD officer you’ll probably see an outside agency right next to them," NOPD interim chief says.

NEW ORLEANS — The peak of Carnival season is almost here, and across the city, leaders are putting plans in place to try and keep parade-goers safe.

On Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell held a press conference with the leaders of multiple city departments. They laid out the city’s sprawling safety plan for the busiest two weekends of Carnival season.

The NOPD and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office are calling in backup from other cities. Sheriff Susan Hutson said 178 officers and deputies will come to the city from 13 different local and regional agencies. NOPD Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork explained that they will be paired with local officers, saying “If you see an NOPD officer you’ll probably see an outside agency right next to them.” There will also be federal agents, including from the FBI, standing ready near routes and in the French Quarter.

Bill Salmeron, Chief of New Orleans EMS, said there will be ambulances and other emergency medical units, like bikes and carts, stationed near parade routes. He encouraged anyone dealing with a non-emergency medical situation to go to urgent care or use telehealth, rather than call for an ambulance. Salmeron also pleaded with the public to stay smart during parades, explaining that his department gets “a lot of calls related to people jumping off of barricades or crossing barricades.”

The Orleans Parish Communication District will have 911 operators working overtime throughout the next two weeks. OPCD Director Tyrell Morris urged people to keep the lines clear, reserving 911 for emergencies and dialing 311 for non-emergencies.

NOLA Public Schools also held a press conference Thursday. District leaders, krewe representatives, and students encouraged the public to respect high school bands marching in parades. “A lot of people have access to us,” explained Bryan Tillman, Booker T. Washington drum major. He said people trying to “cross the line,” or run out in front of the band, is often a problem. Christopher Herrero, director of Edna Karr’s band, agreed. “Some people think it’s a game to try and cross the band,” said Herrero, “just don’t do it.”

District leaders say there will be more chaperones and security vehicles alongside bands than usual this year. Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams believes there’s indeed “a heightened need for more safety and security because of the state of our community right now.” She wants crowds to behave for the sake of the students, saying “they’ve been working so hard for this. It should be a joyous occasion.”

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