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Water problems, squatters plague temporary home for municipal, traffic court

The courts have been operating out of the old VA hospital location on Perdido Street while the city courthouse is undergoing renovations.

NEW ORLEANS — The temporary home for the New Orleans Municipal and Traffic Court is clear and secure for now.

Friday, the NOPD Special Operations Division and officers from the Eighth District went floor by floor in the old VA Hospital on Perdido Street, looking for vagrants and people salvaging pipes and copper wires.

“Property management went up to the eighth floor and found it to be barricaded,” NOPD Capt. Hans Ganthier said. “They believe that some water main pipes might have been cut, leaving a flood all the way down to the elevator.”

The city’s Municipal and Traffic Court now occupies the first floor of the building.

The court moved there temporarily in October after Hurricane Ida damaged the South Broad Street courthouse near police headquarters.
Judge Mark Shea says they were forced to close on Friday because of the water damage.

“We were afraid someone was going to get electrocuted, so we immediately closed,” Shea said. “We did a walk through and found a saw and some cutting equipment, and we believe they were cutting pipes in the upper stories.”

About 25-30 officers participated in the sweep. We saw them escort one man from the building.

“So far, we’ve only located one,” Ganthier said. “There is evidence that people are living in there, so our main job is to make sure they’re not in there, so they can repair the building.”

Judge Shea confirms they’ve had problems with copper thieves in the building.

“The contractor said there are some issues with the roof, but we’ve had serious rains before yesterday and we’ve had no water cascading, so our belief is and based on the tools that we found that they are removing copper and that’s what happened yesterday.”

NOPD officers completed their sweep, shortly before noon.

Judge Shea said he expects the Municipal and Traffic Court to reopen on Monday.

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