New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and former trash mogul Sidney Torres IV reached a cease-fire in their spat over violent crime in the French Quarter during a sit-down Friday with other city officials, neighborhood representatives and business groups.
The two-hour closed-door meeting did not yield any new policies or plans, though it is expected to kick into gear a proposal to hire off-duty officers to patrol Bourbon Street. But Torres, who has blasted Landrieu in a series of TV ads saying the French Quarter is under siege by violent criminals, said he came away willing to give the administration a chance to make progress.
“It was good to see the mayor pull everybody in the room together and basically look to everyone to show he was very concerned and that he was willing to listen,” Torres said.
Friday’s meeting included Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, tourism officials and a variety of groups representing businesses and residents in the French Quarter. After it was over, Torres said he was planning to pull his ads off the air while he sees what short-term solutions can be put in place.
Meanwhile, officials said they need community support to put a long-term plan in place.
“We’ve got more officers on proactive patrol to combat violent crime every night through our 16-member violent crime task force, NOPD reserve officers and by doubling the amount of overtime available in every district,” Harrison said in an emailed statement. “The long-term plan to rebuild the department and keep our streets safe will require everyone to get involved, and we will continue to work together on more opportunities to make that happen.”
The most significant element of the meeting for Torres dealt with a 6-month-old proposal by Bourbon Street businesses. Under that plan, developed after a summertime shooting spree on the street, business owners would pay about $10,000 a month to hire off-duty New Orleans police officers to augment the NOPD’s presence on the street.
The plan was proposed last summer, but there has been no action yet. During the meeting, the mayor ordered his staff to get the paperwork on the deal signed immediately, Torres said.
Other businesses in the area could start collecting funds for similar details beyond Bourbon Street, a project Torres said he would be a part of and potentially would help fund.
In addition, the increased security presence provided by Louisiana State Police, who will be patrolling the Quarter during Carnival, and the 16-member violent crime task force should help provide a short-term solution, Torres said.
And that, he said, should be enough time for the mayor to come up with a long-term proposal.
“I want them to succeed. I don’t want to hurt them. This is not a political motive,” he said.
Torres, who has seen his home on Esplanade Avenue burglarized and the bar next door robbed in recent weeks, said the motivation for the ads came from his own fears about safety.
“I did it based out of the frustration that I felt, being a scared citizen and a business owner walking down the street,” he said. “It’s true that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way, and it must have resonated with the mayor that it’s a major problem.”
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.