Frenchmen Street, as most OffBeat readers know, developed organically as a music district. Over the past 15 years or so, Frenchmen has become the destination for locals and visitors looking to experience local music. The proximity of all the bars and music clubs has made the street popular place for locals, and now it’s attracting tourists too. In fact, maybe too many tourists, because the street is overflowing with crowds every night, especially on weekends. (Please let me not hear “Where did you get them shoes?” on Frenchmen!)
But with crowds come problems.
The street has been plagued by issues related to crowds, traffic, sanitation, drugs, panhandlers, crime and illegal vendors. Often the street is too crowded for traffic to pass through, so there’s a potential for real problems if police can’t get through in case of emergencies. Moreover, the city simply does not have enough police to provide adequate protection to Frenchmen, even when they are called.
“A lot of the street folks and people that have been chased out of the French Quarter. Now we have to deal with them, as well as a lot more serious crime that now has a better chance of happening in our neighborhood–and we’ve been seeing it,” said Jason Patterson (Snug Harbor) with the Frenchmen Marigny Triangle Business Association.
Frenchmen’s businesses have long complained that there’s simply not enough police to ameliorate and address crimes and problems on the street. Illegal vendors, who aren’t licensed by the city, set up and sell everything from beer to food to retail items right outside businesses who pay taxes, buy permits and are legitimate businesses. Despite complaints from the Frenchmen businesses, there has never been adequate police presence, nor enforcement when laws are broken. There simply are not enough NOPD.
FMTBA was formed to represent local businesses to work together to address the many needs that those businesses have in common. After much study and meeting with police representatives, it was determined that the most immediate need was a security patrol with the authority and the motivation to control Frenchmen Street through enforcement of existing laws. But with Bourbon Street and the French Quarter security patrol now in place, Frenchmen Street has seen an increase in crime, vagrants and illegal street vendors that the under-manned NOPD cannot control outside the French Quarter. They perps have migrated over to Frenchmen.
But that’s all about to change.
“Starting next week the Business Association will start paying a monthly fee for a security detail on Friday and Saturday nights covering a three-block stretch on Frenchmen Street and a half block off on the side streets,” said Jeff Bromberger, also of the FMTBA. Bromberger owns the Maison and Dragon’s Den.
The new detail, funded by FMBTA members, was set up to protect local businesses and visitors, and is expected to have a positive impact on issues on the street such as crowd control, traffic flow, brass bands on Chartres Street corner, street vendors, amyl nitrate balloon sellers and other illegal drug sellers, street musicians playing on private property, graffiti taggers and panhandlers.
Though FMTBA had initially planned on exclusively using NOPD, it was determined that a partnership of a private service created by and staffed by former policemen, Pinnacle Security, along with NOPD officers, would be more effective. Pinnacle Security has the blessing of the district’s current NOPD commander Jeffrey Walls, and can work closely with NOPD on enforcement and arrests, giving Frenchmen better NOPD coverage and establishing ongoing communication with the NOPD 8th District.
Beginning this Friday night (and in time for the craziness of Halloween a couple of weeks away), Frenchmen will be patrolled from the beginning of Frenchmen Street at Esplanade to Washington Square at Royal (or Dauphine). The patrol also will also monitor half a block off Frenchmen Street on that route.
Initially, the patrol (with an associated NOPD officer) will work weekends, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 7:00 p.m. and ending at 4:00 a.m., 18 hours total per weekend.
As they gain business membership and sponsors, the hope is to extend the patrol to additional nights, increased hours and to expand the program in the Marigny Triangle. In the future the FMTBA hopes to create an Economic Development District using sales tax collections to finance the security detail in the future until NOPD recruits and trains enough officers.
Businesses in the Frenchmen Street Cultural and Arts District hope the extra officers in the area will improve the public safety of visitors, workers and residents of our community.