Security tightened for Bowl

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Louisiana State Trooper Scott Davis, third from left, gives directions Wednesday to a San Francisco 49ers fan on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, while standing next to Troopers Jessie Almore, far left,  and Trooper M. Titus both of Bossier City. Many extra troopers and police officers have been added to the Quarter and CBD in New Orleans for added security during the Super Bowl.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Louisiana State Trooper Scott Davis, third from left, gives directions Wednesday to a San Francisco 49ers fan on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, while standing next to Troopers Jessie Almore, far left, and Trooper M. Titus both of Bossier City. Many extra troopers and police officers have been added to the Quarter and CBD in New Orleans for added security during the Super Bowl.

With only days to go until the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII, a security playbook more than a year in the making is coming to life.

Hundreds of additional officers are on patrol in New Orleans. The law enforcement presence especially will be heavy in the French Quarter, Central Business District, Marigny and Tremé areas.

“This week there is no safer place to be than the city of New Orleans,” Ray Parmer, the federal coordinator for Super Bowl security and special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Wednesday.

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said about one-quarter of his troopers – about 240 people — will be in town to help the New Orleans Police Department.

“For Louisiana to be successful, New Orleans needs to be successful,” Edmonson said. “We want people to come here. We want people to enjoy themselves. We want people to come back.”

The Louisiana National Guard also will supplement the security measures.

The Super Bowl falls during a financial crisis for the state that just prompted Gov. Bobby Jindal to make a number of budget cuts, including eliminating dental benefits for pregnant women on Medicaid. To save money, state troopers assigned to the game are sleeping at convents and a seminary instead of paying for hotel rooms, Edmonson said.

A security news conference Wednesday spelled out a massive plan that entails neighboring parish, state and federal agencies supplementing the 1,260 officers under New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

New Orleans officers will make up a contingent of two sets of 400 people who will work 12-hour shifts in an effort to keep visitors and citizens safe, Serpas said.

The New Orleans Police Department began rolling out its Super Bowl security plan at 7 a.m. Wednesday after more than 18 months of development.

The department expects to spend $1.7 million to ensure things go smoothly for the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, police spokeswoman Remi A. Braden said.

“I have complete confidence in the plan,” Serpas said.

Serpas and Edmonson spoke at a news briefing that included U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who asked that anyone who sees suspicious activity to report it to authorities.

“It’s very helpful to us when people are aware,” Napolitano said.

While officials asked the public to keep their eyes open, Mike Anderson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans field office, said there are no known threats that the bureau is dealing with. “But we want to keep our eye on the ball,” he said.

With the number of law-enforcement agencies keeping watch on the city this week, Parmer said that there should be little to worry about.

The Super Bowl coincides with budget crunches for government agencies.

Kevin Davis, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, deployed a command bus to the city in the event a backup communications system is needed. He also provided 100 radios.

Davis said roughly 10 of his employees will work in the city’s emergency command center to help monitor for problems.

“I haven’t put any dollar amounts to it,” Davis said, adding that he should be able to absorb the expense within his budget.

Edmonson, who hasn’t been able to hold a cadet class in several years because of state money problems, said he is trying to avoid splashing out a lot of dollars.

State Police will work the Super Bowl as well as Mardi Gras.

To save money, troopers are not working overtime, Edmonson said.