Security tops bowl prep

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New Orleans Police Officers Collin Munster and Louis Labat walk along Royal Street in the French Quarter Friday. Many more law enforcement authorities from city, state and federal agencies will descend on New Orleans during Super Bowl week to help the NOPD handle the massive crowds.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New Orleans Police Officers Collin Munster and Louis Labat walk along Royal Street in the French Quarter Friday. Many more law enforcement authorities from city, state and federal agencies will descend on New Orleans during Super Bowl week to help the NOPD handle the massive crowds.

With tens of thousands streaming into New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII next month, the city’s police are counting on support from law enforcement agencies throughout the metropolitan area to beef up patrols in the most-affected areas, while maintaining service throughout the city.

Preparations for the Super Bowl have been going on for months, and improvements to the city’s public transit, airport and streets have all been geared toward creating the best possible impression on visitors to New Orleans.

But one of the keys to ensuring that New Orleans is portrayed positively by the media throng that accompanies the game is preventing crime in tourist-heavy areas during that weekend.

To that end, New Orleans police have crafted multiple operational plans, and they are counting on an influx of officers from nearly a dozen local, state and federal agencies. Those officers are particularly crucial, given staffing issues at the NOPD, which police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has acknowledged is well below what he would consider the optimal size.

Commander Ed Hosli, who is coordinating patrols during the event, said there are 19 different plans among the department’s various divisions. Although the total number of officers on duty will fluctuate throughout the run-up to the Super Bowl, Hosli said that police expect to flood the French Quarter and Central Business District with at least 638 officers, and a sizable number of them will be from other departments.

“The numbers change every day,” said Hosli, who noted that NOPD officers will be working 12-hour shifts once plans are implemented Jan. 26. “It’s a huge event that is so important to the entire region. You want everything to go well.”

In addition to officers from a variety of federal agencies working with other NOPD divisions, the Patrol Division will draw officers from the Slidell Police Department, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Westwego Police Department, Gretna Police Department, Louisiana State Police, Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office and Kenner Police Department, Hosli said.

Those officers, who are being paid by their home agencies, will be paired with New Orleans police officers and mainly will handle walking patrols throughout the French Quarter and CBD, he said.

There also will be officers stationed at various key points in the city, such as the hotels where the two teams will stay. Pairing out-of-town officers with local police will make certain that an officer familiar with the city is responding to calls, but also offer outside officers a chance to enjoy themselves, Hosli said.

“For a lot of officers, it’s a chance for them to experience the big crowds and the good times that they might not see,” Hosli said.

Although Hosli expressed confidence that New Orleans police could have handled the event without extra help, he said the additional officers will make things easier. New Orleans police must balance the needs of the game with their ability to maintain adequate staffing in police districts and handle standard answer calls. Hosli said every district will be at full patrol capacity, thanks to the extra help.

“We certainly welcome the help; you don’t turn down help,” Hosli said. “What’s very important for us is not to take more resources than we can handle from the districts.”

Providing assistance is requiring a substantial commitment from several agencies, particularly in Jefferson Parish, where law enforcement agencies will be dealing with Family Gras and other Carnival celebrations that same weekend. Up to 100 officers from a variety of Jefferson Parish agencies will be helping with the game.

Kenner police Chief Steve Caraway said his department will provide between 20 to 25 officers, roughly half of what the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is sending to New Orleans. Caraway said the Super Bowl is hugely important to Kenner, particularly since most of the visitors will pass through the city at some point. Although Kenner also is operating below optimal staffing levels, Caraway said that not helping New Orleans wasn’t really an option.

“They can’t do it by themselves. That, along with Mardi Gras, it’s just too many people that are going to be in town,” he said. “There are no boundaries when it comes to crime.”

Smaller agencies such as Westwego and Gretna are doing their part, despite tightening budgets in those cities. Budget constraints mean that Super Bowl duty will be handled as part of regular shifts instead of overtime. Westwego and Gretna are already making scheduling changes to accommodate the event.

Gretna police Chief Arthur Lawson said not only is his department sending officers for foot patrols, but the city’s police boat will be used to patrol the Mississippi River. Gretna officers have participated in every Super Bowl in New Orleans because it just makes sense.

“We’re going to do whatever we can,” Lawson said. “I think it’s a benefit to the entire region.”

Westwego police Chief Dwayne Munch Sr. will send as many as 14 officers, or more than 30 percent of his staff, to New Orleans at some point. In fact, every Westwego police officer will handle some Super Bowl duty. Munch said that people who question why a small city like Westwego would get involved in something in New Orleans don’t understand the importance of a successful Super Bowl for the entire region. Not only will Westwego see some direct economic impact from the game, but a prosperous New Orleans should be the goal of everyone, he said.

“We all know that as New Orleans goes, the region goes. If New Orleans fails, the region fails,” Munch said. “It’s all about working together.”