The Coliseum Square Association is considering whether to form a security district with private patrols — an idea that appears to have split neighborhood residents.
At a meeting this month, association board member Ryan Kropog presented the “rough” proposal as a response to complaints from neighbors about crime.
“People are concerned about it,” he said. “I’m seeing whether or not hiring security is the right way to go.”
Kropog suggested that a private organization be hired to patrol the swath of land bounded by St. Charles Avenue, Calliope Street, Constance Street and Jackson Avenue, excluding the large section of the Lower Garden District on the river side of Constance.
The area would directly abut another privately patrolled neighborhood, the Garden District, at Jackson Avenue.
Should the neighborhood association agree to the boundaries, the next step would be to ask the Legislature to support the creation of the security district, Kropog said. After that, an election would be called for residents of the district to vote on whether to pay for the patrols.
Based on the city assessor’s website, Kropog calculated there are roughly 600 parcels in the boundaries he outlined. He then estimated the cost of the patrols based on what the Garden District Security District charges, which is roughly $25 an hour per vehicle.
The GDSD uses three vehicles to patrol that neighborhood 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kropog suggested three alternatives for the Coliseum Square area: two vehicles on patrol 24/7; one vehicle patrolling all the time; or a patrol time of 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., which would carry a different hourly rate.
Using two cars to patrol the area day and night, the cost would be roughly $438,000 a year, or $730 per year per parcel, based on Kropog’s rough calculations. One vehicle patrolling around the clock would cost about $365 per parcel, and a night patrol would probably cost about $200 per year per parcel.
Kropog added that the district would have full autonomy to decide on boundaries and patrol service hours, and that the association could also decide whether to split the cost evenly among all the parcels or prorate it based on square footage.
Most of the objections to the proposal centered on cost. Some residents worried about how the cost would be divided, especially among owners of rental properties, who would have to decide whether to pass on the burden in the form of higher rent.
Others were concerned about whether added security patrols would be effective enough in deterring crime to justify the expense, with one resident citing an evaluation of security districts published by New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux in 2013. That report found that added patrols didn’t appear to reduce the number of violent crimes or murders but seemed to help reduce property crimes.
Some countered that it was impossible to compare crime statistics now to those from 30 years ago, when the Garden District first got added security.
Kropog acknowledged that the subject was controversial, especially because of the financial burden it would put on residents, but he underscored that this was just the beginning of a process to see whether the majority of residents want to pay for the added security.
“Talking about money, people get really emotional,” he said. “So this is something we can talk about and see if we can discuss it, to get on the same page.”
Kropog said the association could decide how often a vote would be held on whether to renew the assessment for private patrols, and that the organization should be careful to track crime numbers, property values, rental rates and other statistics to “determine whether we are getting our money’s worth.”