BY JESSICA WILLIAMS | Staff writer Aug 20, 2020 – 10:55 am
New Orleans City Council members agreed Thursday to ask voters to renew a sales tax that would pay off-duty New Orleans police officers to patrol the historic French Quarter.
For the past five years, the 0.24% tax has paid state troopers to monitor that neighborhood. But the ballot language the council approved Thursday doesn’t bind those troopers to that job, and members said the cash is better spent with the French Quarter Management District, whose supplemental police patrol program has been praised by residents and businesses.
Under the program, off-duty NOPD officers use smart cars to navigate the Vieux Carre. Residents can use a mobile app to confidentially tell the task force about crimes in the area.
“We’ve heard nothing but success stories, again and again, both from the residents of the French Quarter and from the businesses of the French Quarter,” said Councilwoman Kristen Gisleson Palmer of the program at the Thursday meeting of the French Quarter Economic Development District, a body comprised of council members.
French Quarter residents would consider the idea on Dec. 5. Palmer and other members said they plan to have a deal ironed out with the French Quarter Management District before then, to make it clear where the cash is going.
Though state police have manned the area since 2014 under a plan first hashed out by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, their presence has been met with some criticism, particularly of their overtime practices and their exemption from NOPD’s consent decree and the rules it entails.
The task force, meanwhile, uses NOPD officers who are trained in the consent decree’s particulars, and has been effective in the five years it has been in the neighborhood. The initial pilot for the French Quarter Task Force was funded by Sidney Torres IV; the group has received revenue from the hotel self-assessment tax in recent years and from private donations.