Newell: French Quarter security "insufficient, inefficient, intolerable!"

How can you get results if you can't follow the money?

Newell Normand
June 25, 2019 - 5:38 pm

Might wanna take notes on this one, folks, because it's a real rats nest. 

A few days ago, Newell talked with leaders from the French Quarter Business League about how they worked out a compromise to tax themselves in order to help finance providing additional security in the Vieux Carre. Today, the City Council Member whose jurisdiction includes the Quarter, Kristen Giselson Palmer, joined Newell in studio to pick up where the French Quarter Business League left off, and explain how security funding and enforcement are working - or not working - from the City's perspective.

"This is a really important issue," Palmer began, emphasizing that security in the French Quarter is a glaring issue because of the sheer number of bars, restaurants and visitors all packed into an area less than one square mile, and that a more proactive approach to ensuring public safety is needed. "Everyone is concerned with it day-to-day... it takes a multi-tier approach when you look at that security, we can't really sit there and do knee-jerk reactions to how we respond."

Palmer than rattled off a long list of business and property owner interest groups who all have similar security goals for the neighborhood, but divergent ideas about how to achieve them, and different ideas about how to fund them. 

"Within the French Quarter, you have not only the French Quarter Business League, you have the French Quarter Business Association, the Vieux Carre Commission, the Vieux Carre Property Owners Association, the French Quarter Citizens Association... the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Greater New Orleans Hotel Lodging Association," she said. "I wanted, when we came back in, to look at all the different levels of security, and where money and funding was going. At the end of the day, we can sit there and throw as much money as we can at the problem, but if it's not properly deployed, we're not fixing any problems whatsoever."

So what's changed since Palmer returned to office with a renewed focus on this matter?

"Within the first several months, we requested information for all expenditures in all different pots of money going into the French Quarter," Palmer continued. "There was money from the State Police, but there were also entities that basically create their own amounts and their own type of security forces. For instance, you have the Downtown Development District, which basically goes to the middle of Iberville Street; they derive revenues from the French Quarter. They receive basically over $900,000 annually, and part of that money goes to security in the form of Rangers with in those first 100-200 blocks. You've got one entity that receives almost a million dollars a year that goes to quality of life issues in the 100-200 blocks."

"But not all of that goes for security?" Newell pressed.

"No, it doesn't," Palmer affirmed. The DDD does garbage pickup, street sweeping and more. "However, you can also imagine that most people feel the blocks off Canal Street are not to the level they would like to see. Are the resources being deployed in a manner that makes a lot of sense? The Rangers are absolutely a great thing in the CBD, but is that something you need only on the first two blocks off of Canal? Would it make more sense to have a highly-coordinated security force? That's one example. Another that comes to mind is the French Market Corporation... they have a significant amount of revenues that come in, over ten million dollars a year, their expenditures are over nine million a year. Part of their expenditures are about $1.5 million that goes towards their own security, just within the French Market, which is a substantial amount of money when you think about it."

One can see how it starts to get confusing with this alphabet soup of overlaying districts and organizations each doing their own thing without much coordination.

"Again, this is all separate from the State Troopers," Palmer continued, "And in addition to that you have the French Quarter Security Task Force, and everybody has loved this addition. We hear nothing but positive results from that, and that has been run very effectively, that's NOPD, housed within the 8th District, basically trained within the policies and procedures of the French Quarter. People would really like to see that expanded, which is why before we even talked about anything else, we wanted to see where all the money was going when we talk about security in the French Quarter."  

 How does this all start to come together when you zoom out?

"We are expending $8.7 million a year," Palmer said. "That's inclusive of the State Troopers at $5.4 million, the French Market Corporation at $1.5 million, the DDD at about $673,000 (again, that's only for security in the first two blocks off Canal), and the French Quarter Task Force, which spends about $1.2 million a year. So the question is, if you have $8.7 million, is that being deployed as well as it should be? My premise, my thought, is no. We can't make any decisions unless we know where all the money is. Twice as much money is being expended there than the entire 4th District in Algiers.

"I bet you," Newell cut in, "There's not a district station that has an $8.7 million budget. I can tell you in Jefferson Parish, I could finance the entirety of the Eastbank, from a patrol perspective, with $8.7 million... that would be about 144 officers, including rank, that I would do for that number in that geographic area of the French Quarter that's about the size of one beat. Jefferson Parish has 8 or 9 beats in a District."

Got that? The cumulative amount of money all those organizations spend on security in the French Quarter is comparable to what Jefferson Parish spends on the entire Eastbank.  

"That's why I was excited about coming to speak with you about this issue," Palmer said, "because you see it in a totally different light."

The Councilmember was kind enough to spend an entire hour in the studio with Newell discussing this before being whisked away to another meeting that would pique Newell's interest - what to do about those bucket kids making all that racket.

Listen to the full interview below.


 

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