An unprecedented number of electronic eyes will soon be deployed throughout New Orleans, watching over 20 different neighborhoods, tracking vehicles to assist police as they search for suspects and scanning French Quarter revelers to look for hidden weapons.
The massive security deployment, part of a $40 million crime-prevention plan unveiled Monday, includes pumping public and private video feeds into a centralized New Orleans Police Department command center that will be monitored around the clock.
“Here’s the first thing I want everyone to know: When you go on Bourbon Street now, everything you do will be seen,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.
The proposal, drafted in the wake of a shooting on Bourbon Street on Thanksgiving weekend that left one person dead and nine wounded, also calls for efforts to tamp down on the atmosphere of street partying and entertainment that often overtakes areas of the Quarter into the early morning hours.
While no closing times will be imposed, bars across the city will be required to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. to discourage patrons from spilling outside, and an early morning spraying of Bourbon Street will further discourage revelry there.
Vehicles will be barred from the first eight blocks of Bourbon Street; movable bollards will allow emergency vehicles and delivery trucks through when needed.
The plan also calls for increasing regulations on strip clubs and live entertainment venues in the French Quarter and further restricting performers at Jackson Square, while “rebranding the French Quarter and Bourbon Street’s image as a cultural destination.”
Cameras that can spot guns through layers of clothing — using infrared or similar technologi…
The proposal has been in the works since late last year and involved city, state and tourism officials.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson, representatives of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center — which will be shouldering some of the financial burden — and the FBI, and members of the City Council and the city's legislative delegation stood shoulder to shoulder in supporting the plan at Monday’s news conference.
“We’re sending a message to the millions who visit New Orleans every year,” Edwards said. “It’s important they know New Orleans is safe.”
The plan, particularly the idea of closing Bourbon to vehicular traffic, is also a response to terrorist attacks in Europe in which trucks have been driven into large crowds.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu is working on plans for new permanent security measures along Bourbon S…
A significant expansion of the city’s surveillance program was expected as part of the plan, and the final draft includes major deployments of cameras throughout the city. It targets 20 neighborhoods considered “hot spots” for crime, including the French Quarter, and calls for installing 10 cameras and six license plate readers in each area.
“Though we are here for something that began in the French Quarter, it has become a catalyst for something that includes all of New Orleans,” state Sen. J.P. Morrell said. Morrell also cited new laws that heighten the penalties for illegally carrying weapons, such as along parade routes.
An additional two mobile surveillance cameras and two mobile license plate readers will also be assigned to each of the 20 neighborhoods, according to the plan.
Those cameras will feed into a centralized command center monitored by city staff, who will also be watching feeds from private security cameras that are tied into the system. Cameras will now be required outside of bars as part of their licensing requirements.
Landrieu said the plan was not the complete solution to crime in New Orleans but was an important part of increasing safety.
“We could have as many police officers as there are in the world and not be able to stop crime,” he said.
Beyond the increased surveillance, the plan calls for tamping down on the city’s famously raucous nightlife and a culture, particularly on Bourbon Street, that encourages wandering from bar to bar or reveling in the street for hours past midnight.
Under the plan, bars across the city can still remain open at all hours but will have to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. That was a compromise measure that would not go as far as mandatory closing hours for bars, Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said.
There have been no discussions of changing the city’s open container laws, which allow for go-cups of alcohol throughout the city, he said.
“Particularly when you look at Bourbon Street but also around the city, you have a lot of bars that have their doors open, music blaring out,” Berni said. “The idea is to move the party from the street into the businesses.”
Landrieu said people still outside at 3 a.m. would be “encouraged” to go inside, though Berni said there would be no widespread effort to move people off the streets.
On Bourbon Street, a 3 a.m. cleaning that “flushes” the street is planned — apparently similar to the sweep that formally ends Fat Tuesday — with a police escort that could make some consider going inside.
The new rules for bars and some other provisions will have to be approved by the City Council. Those rules would apply citywide and, in addition to crime concerns, are aimed at addressing neighborhood complaints about loud bars and music.
“How do you create an atmosphere that tamps the volume down a bit?” Berni said. “This is responding to the character of some of the activity going on, particularly in the late night hours. The more people are inside, the less of an atmosphere outside that creates potential for trouble.”