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French Quarter residents can vote to end extra police patrols or quadruple them with new plan

"If residents vote no, the supplemental patrols will cease," Josh Cox said referring to the French Quarter Task Force Smart Cars behind him.

NEW ORLEANS — French Quarter voters have a choice to quadruple the number of extra police officers patrolling the area or to have them no more. That's what city officials said when they offered a new plan to "keep crime down in the French Quarter."

Law enforcement officers in the French Quarter will be few and far between soon, but officials are giving residents a chance to keep the French Quarter Task Force, supplementing it with a "ground patrol element" that would be run by the city's office of Home Land Security. 

"If residents vote no,  the supplemental patrols will cease," Josh Cox said referring to the task force behind him. "The app, the smart cars, the blue light patrols —they'll all go away."

Louisiana State Police Troop N is scheduled to be dissolved before 2021, and the 32 troopers that it brought to patrol the French Quarter, will go elsewhere, City Hall analyst Eric Smith said.

"We're looking at spending between $1.4 million and $1.5 million over the course of 2021 to be able to not only expand (the FQTF) patrol back to where it was pre-COVID... but to add in a grounds patrol component," said.

Currently, the FQTF is allotted 32 patrol hours a day, or four patrol shifts of eight hours. Before the pandemic, it was 48 hours.

This new plan from City Hall and French Quarter Task Force will make increase patrol hours to 48 hours — like it was before COVID — and add a new kind of patrol: A grounds patrol.

These grounds patrol officers will not be NOPD officesr, but new Grounds Patrol officers.

"These individuals will be providing quality of life service," Cox said. "That means code enforcement. That means sanitation enforcement."

Grounds patrol officers will work in concert and complement with NOPD officers, Ross Bourgeouis with the N.O. Office of HLS said.

 "They'll be additional eyes and ears. They'll be in constant communication with the Eighth District overtime officers. They'll have the ability to issue citations to municipal court for low-level code enforcement offenses."

Smith told reporters between the expansion of current FQTF patrols back to pre-COVID numbers and around 60 hours of patrols from grounds patrol officers a day, there should be no less than 128 hours of patrols a day, four times as much as what residents in the French Quarter have now.

Before the pandemic, Smith said, 15 LSP troopers patrolled the Quarter 24/7. It's been down to 8 troopers since the height of the pandemic. In January, they'll be patrolling elsewhere.

"We're losing the (LSP) contingent entirely," Smith said.

Furloughs of City of New Orleans employees have kept 10% of NOPD officers off the street, a release from the Police Association of New Orleans said. The police advocacy group said furloughs are keeping what "amounts to 120 fewer officers on the street."

City officials working alongside the French Quarter Task Force were able to come up with a plan that would keep current FQTF patrols and supplement it with a "ground patrol element" that would be run by the city's office of Home Land Security.

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