Overall crime during the 2012 Mardi Gras season was down from 2011, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a post-Mardi Gras press conference today. According to Landrieu, police reported a nine percent reduction in crimes against persons and a six percent reduction in crimes against property during the festivities. What's more, in spite of at least two high profile shooting incidents, one near the St. Charles parade route on Thursday, Feb. 16 and another near the French Quarter on Mardi Gras, violent crime was down significantly.
"We believe from preliminary data that violent crimes are down 44 percent," from 2011, Serpas said.
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Landrieu attributed much of that progress to NOPD officers' "robust presence" throughout the city — officers were working extra-long shifts throughout the season, clocking a total of 42,000 overtime hours, Serpas said — as well as a new (controversial) curfew extension in the French Quarter. Crimes against persons were down 40 percent from last year in the NOPD's 8th District, which covers the French Quarter.
Serpas said that 193 kids were picked up for violating the new curfew, including 55 who were picked up during the newly extended hours.
"We did a lot of negotiating this year," Serpas said, mentioning talks between the NOPD and leaders of Mardi Gras Indian tribes, where NOPD officials agreed to allow the Indians to parade after 6 p.m. and to abandon the practice of following them in squad cars while flashing their lights and sounding their sirens.
"We made a commitment to change those practices, and we did," Serpas said. (He did add, without elaborating, that he is looking into a small number of reports on police-Indian relations during the 2012 season.)
More Carnival season crime and police stats:
—1,056 8th District "arrest actions," which include actual arrests as well as summonses
—33 guns found
—200 percent increase in drug arrests from last year.
—6 percent increase in officer working hours ("We believe that we will be on or even under budget," Serpas said.)
Cleanliness and Courtesy:
"We made a commitment that within three hours of the end of each parade day, streets would be clean and returned to normal," said Deputy Mayor of Operations Michelle Thomas. And, with the exception of Sunday, a "monster day" due to Saturday rain cancellations, the 460-plus city workers handling parade route cleanup came in at an average of about two hours, she said.
Neutral ground violations were a problem, as has been the case in previous years, Landrieu said. The city handed out 1,045 citations to parade-goers for violations including roping off sections of neutral grounds, blocking cross-streets and erecting tents and structures. Landrieu says he hopes to better clarify exactly what the rules are for next year's Mardi Gras celebrations.