Sydney McMath holds a sign in Jackson Square.
More than 100 people gathered in Jackson Square this evening to demand more police presence in what many residents fear is a growing area for violent crime. The rally
— held on the first night of Carnival, about an hour before the Krewe de Jeanne D'Arc marched down Decatur Street and a few hours after Mayor Mitch Landrieu officially kicked off the city's 2015 season — followed growing frustrations from residents during a particularly violent end of 2014. While Landrieu said the city was making progress with lowering its murder rate last week
, French Quarter residents posted signs reading "Caution: Walk in large groups. We [heart] the NOPD. We just need more."
People at the rally called for more police, whether boots on the ground belonged to NOPD officers, Louisiana State Police (who beefed up police efforts during the Sugar Bowl and New Year's events) or other law enforcement. Several people broke out in chants, including "What do we want? Troopers! When do we want them? Now!" and "Where's the mayor? What's the plan?"
"We'll take what we can get," said Edith Sercovich, who said her street recently has seen a murder, beatings and robberies. Sercovich handed out signs reading, "Welcome to Landrieuville! Home of Robbers, Stabbers & Rapists."
Bob Simms with the French Quarter Management District's Security Task Force said NOPD officers in the French Quarter's 8th District are doing the best they can — they just need more. "We should be staffed at 160 officers. We're at about 100," he said. "They can't do what they need to do with that few officers. ... This is a citywide problem. It's manifested itself in the Quarter."
NOPD's ranks are at 1,135 officers, though NOPD and city officials say they need 1,600. Plans to add paid details to Bourbon Street — which businesses mapped out as the city unveiled its NOLA Patrol program
to free up NOPD officers to handle violent crime — still are on the table, though it won't solve the problem, Simms said. "At best, it's three guys. We're short way more than three."
"The city is going to have to come to the conclusion to do whatever it takes to build manpower," said Donovan Livaccari, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, adding that the city's 2015 budget inclusion of a 5 percent police pay raise
"is not going to cut it."