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The city plans to expand the number of camera feeds monitored at the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center.

CITY SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM PLANS BIG GROWTH IN CAMERAS

The Real-Time Crime Center, which monitors hundreds of city-owned surveillance cameras, plans to add dozens of cameras outside homes and businesses. Following the center's opening in November 2017, the city's stock of cameras is now at 340. That footage is shared with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as well as state and federal law enforcement. The crime center on Rampart Street opened as part of a $40 million anti-crime plan during former Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.

The New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation's SafeCam NOLA program has 6,000 cameras in its index, made up of privately owned cameras that are registered with the program to be accessed by law enforcement.

"SafeCam Platinum," as it's called, began its soft launch in October and is integrating cameras outside homes and businesses into the city-owned center's network, creating a "21st century neighborhood watch," foundation Director Melanie Talia said at a press conference recognizing the first year of the city's Real-Time Crime Center.

About 20 Platinum program cameras have been added to the network, and another 50 were added within the National World War II Museum footprint, according to Collin Arnold, director of the city's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, which oversees the center. Other participating groups include the Downtown Development District, Liberty Bank and the Tall Timbers Owners Association on the West Bank.

In its first-quarter report from earlier this year, Arnold's office said it would be too costly to install and monitor more city-owned cameras. Instead, he encouraged the city to "[leverage] existing private sector cameras" to connect to the center's stream.

Through November 2018, the center processed 2,300 calls for service; 70 percent of those calls developed "relevant footage," Arnold said. So-called "on view" crimes caught on cameras during screen monitoring account for roughly one of every 10 cases, Arnold said.

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison says the center is playing a "vital role" in the department's investigations, estimating access to the cameras has saved "2,000 man hours," meaning officers are "getting to scenes faster and making better, informed decisions in real time during an emergency." Harrison says "instant access to video" combined with detective work has helped "clear all but one of 10 nonfatal shootings" in the 8th District, which covers the French Quarter, Marigny and Central Business District.

"We will grow," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said of the surveillance program. "We have only scratched the surface."

Kennedy out, Abraham in: A wild week in the 2019 gubernatorial race

U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy will not run for Louisiana governor in 2019. He made that announcement last week, surprising many who felt he was clearing the GOP field to unite state Republicans behind him in the race against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

It didn't stop the two men from sniping at each other in statements, however.

"I hope someone runs for governor," Kennedy said, "who understands that Louisiana state government does not have to be a big, slow, dumb, wasteful, sometimes corrupt, spend-money-like-it-was-ditchwater, anti-taxpayer, top-down institution." Kennedy also said President Donald Trump had urged him to stay in the Senate.

"For Sen. Kennedy, this was never about the people of Louisiana," Edwards replied. "This was about focusing the spotlight on himself."

Kennedy had released a poll in recent weeks, saying its results indicated he was the only GOP politician eying the race who actually could beat Edwards.

State and national Democrats gleefully noted that poll 72 hours later, when U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, announced he would join the race. Abraham was just re-elected to a second term in November, which was the subject of a tart response from Edwards: "On Monday, Representative Abraham said he couldn't launch a campaign for governor because it would distract him from important work on the farm bill, soy bean crisis, looming government shutdown, flood insurance expiration and other issues the people of Louisiana have entrusted him to handle on their behalf. … Now, just a few days later, he's abandoning those responsibilities along with the congressional office he was re-elected to exactly one month ago."

The only other declared Republican in the race is Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone. State Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack, who had flirted with running, decided not to in recent weeks — presumably clearing the table for Kennedy.

Inspector General's office: Stop giving free Jazz Fest tickets to City Hall

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival organizers gave hundreds of festival tickets to city employees, potentially violating several state ethics laws. City employees aren't allowed to accept gifts — but the giveaways shed some light on the festival's relationships at City Hall.

The New Orleans Office of Inspector General found that the festival distributed "between 284 to 424" free tickets to seven City Hall departments in 2017, prior to Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration and during then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu's tenure. Most departments reported they were aware they could not use the tickets for personal use and therefore used them only for employees working at the festival, threw them away or gave them to other people. (New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell added that he bought eight tickets for himself and gave the rest of the tickets he received to a Mardi Gras Indian's family.)

The IG also found that the Department of Parks and Parkways "loaned" three gazebos to the festival in 2017, though department head Ann Macdonald said the department didn't charge a rental.

George A. Patterson, director of Property Management, told the IG that it's "unfair" city employees aren't allowed to use the tickets, considering all the services Jazz Fest receives from the city, including equipment use, signage and police and fire protection.

The IG recommended City Hall no longer accept the tickets and arrange a credentialing system with the festival rather than rely on the tickets and employees' "goodwill" that they're not at the Fest for fun.

Week of events planned to support sex workers in New Orleans

In tandem with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, organizers in New Orleans plan a week of events around decriminalizing sex work and ensuring human rights protections are extended to sex workers. Women with a Vision, which is entering its 30th year in public health and social justice advocacy, hosts several events around New Orleans Dec. 11-15 with a focus on sex workers of color.

"These women have the right to make money and feel as safe as they can," Women with a Vision Executive Director Deon Haywood told Gambit. "They deserve public health, safety and care."

The organization hosts a wellness clinic for sex workers at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at its office (1226 N. Broad St.); yoga and self-defense sessions at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 at 2533 Columbus St., street medic and Narcan administration training (and manicures) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at 2533 Columbus St.; and a panel discussion and storytelling around the subject "Who's Trafficking You?" at 6 p.m. Dec. 14.

The week concludes with the organization's second annual Black and Brown Sex Workers Second Line at 3 p.m. Dec. 15, leaving from Women with a Vision and going down Ursulines Street toward Claiborne Avenue.

"When we talk about ending criminalization, reducing incarceration rates for women, we need to be talking about sex work," Haywood said. "You can't leave that out of the conversation."

2019 BUKU lineup includes Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky

The BUKU Music + Art Project returns in 2019 with singer Lana Del Rey, rapper A$AP Rocky and Dog Blood, the latest project from producer Skrillex and Boys Noize. The two-day festival returns to Mardi Gras World March 22-23. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 11; a portion of proceeds support the youth music production program Upbeat Academy.

Also on the 2019 lineup are Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates and New Orleans rap duo $UICIDEBOY$, emo posterband Dashboard Confessional, R&B chart-topper Ella Mai, Toro Y Moi, Death Grips and more than a dozen EDM, hip-hop and rock artists and producers.

There also are VIP-only performances from CharlesTheFirst, Dabin, Duskus, Jantsen, Kittens, Noizu, Xie and AF THE NAYSAYER. AF also joins a local lineup featuring metal mammoths Thou, rapper and producer Lil Jodeci, Unicorn Fukr and others.