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Friday, December 30, 2011

Serpas: 680 police officers in downtown core for New Year's Eve

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Sheriff Marlin Gusman and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas
  • Sheriff Marlin Gusman and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas

Based on projections from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau that city hotels would be booked to capacity, NOPD is preparing for huge crowds in tourist-heavy areas for New Year's Eve. In a press conference at New Orleans Police Department Headquarters today, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas told New Year's eve revelers to expect heavy police presence in the Central Business District, French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.

Serpas, who appeared with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, said NOPD would deploy 680 officers (of about 1,350 officers employed by the department) to the "downtown core" on Dec. 31. Police will be concentrating specifically on drunk driving, illegal fireworks and celebratory firearms discharges.

"It's against the law," Serpas said. "Please do not ring in the night by bringing out a firearm and firing it into the air." A conviction could mean anywhere from two to 20 years in prison, he added.

Asked what a drunk driver can expect if he or she is taken into a parish jail facility tomorrow night, Gusman replied, "It's not going to be good," adding that drunk drivers will have to stay in jail until after the holiday when courts reopen.

"As a parent of a young man arrested twice for DWI, let me tell you it's not something you want to go through," Serpas said.

Downtown will see similar police deployments in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl and BCS championship, Serpas said, with more than 700 in the neighborhoods around the Superdome on January 3, the day of the Sugar Bowl. Those deployments will include 14 deputies from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, plus mounted patrols from the Orleans Parish Sheriff.

"This is a good way for us to test drive the Super Bowl in 2013," Serpas said.

The increased police presence in those high-profile tourism districts doesn't mean that a decreased presence in other areas, Serpas said. Neighborhood deployments will be staffed at normal or greater than normal levels before officers are deployed downtown.

Serpas took a few minutes to discuss this year's crime rate in the city. While noting that viable tips from Crimestoppers were up 11 percent from last year, he also acknowledged a significantly increased murder rate.

"As of today, we have 197 murders in 2011," Serpas said. "That's 22 more than 2010."

Serpas expects the overall crime rate to increase in 2011 from 2010, primarily due to an increase in property crime.

As for violent crimes other than murder, Serpas said assaults remain about flat from last year and robberies to be up only slightly.

"Sex crimes numbers continue to go up and I think that's good news," he said. (Wait, he's going to explain that.) It's good news, he said, not because of an actual increase in sex crime occurrences but because it means that sex crimes are being reported to the police more often.

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