By: Allen Johnson
Crime-weary New Orleans residents and business owners who want Gov. Bobby Jindal to delay withdrawing 300 Louisiana National Guard troops scheduled to begin in June are circulating an online petition (www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/680554178), according to petition organizer Ariane Wiltse, a member of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association (www.helpholycross.org) and an occasional contributor to Gambit Weekly. We also have copies that I have been giving to residents and churches, says Wiltse. The group wants Jindal to keep Guard troops in the city until violent crime rates fall, NOPD restaffs and rebuilds police substations in storm-affected areas, and NOPDs strength returns to pre-storm levels. NOPD had a high of 1,741 cops in 2005, compared to 1,472 last week. Police Chief Warren Riley, who in 2006 asked then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco to deploy the Guard (and 55 State Police) to help NOPD, said recently that the phase-out of Guard troops would begin with the departure of a small contingent at the end of June. At this point, by the end of September, the Guard will probably be gone, Riley told an April 18 news conference. State Police withdrew earlier this year. Local crime usually increases during the hot summer months.