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New Orleans gets anti-crime update

Some are skeptical that more cameras, foot patrols and checkpoints will curb violence.

January 27, 2007|Ann M. Simmons | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor C. Ray Nagin, seeking to reassure his city, provided an update Friday on steps officials were taking to combat a surge in violent crime -- including increasing the use of surveillance cameras, placing more police on foot patrols and setting up a blitz of random traffic checkpoints.

But many residents, frightened and angered by the crime wave that has left at least 14 dead since Jan. 1, said they were reserving judgment on the initiatives until they produced concrete results.

"We are concentrating on crime abatement, particularly violent crime, throughout the whole city," Nagin said at a City Hall news conference.

The mayor said that 50 cameras were operational and that within the next two months, 20 other crime hot spots would be under surveillance. Cameras would also be placed along St. Charles Avenue in time for next month's Mardi Gras parades, Nagin said.

Police Supt. Warren Riley, who joined Nagin at the briefing, said at least 60 officers had been pulled off administrative duties and put on the streets three days a week; the department, he added, planned to use federal money to pay overtime for an additional 40 to 50 patrol officers.

The chief said that officers in every district would walk the beat for as long as 90 minutes each shift.

Fourteen sheriff's deputies also would help beef up patrols in certain neighborhoods, said Riley, who expressed gratitude to U.S. Justice officials who announced Thursday that additional federal agents and ballistics equipment would be sent to New Orleans.

Random checkpoints set up in the last couple of weeks have yielded 1,600 citations, including 24 drug-related arrests and the apprehension of 35 wanted criminals, Riley said.

Stella Baty Landis, a music professor and cafe owner who spearheaded an anti-crime march on City Hall this month, said she was pleased to see the mayor and police chief providing public updates and hoped they would do so every week.

But Ken Foster, a writer and professor who helped Landis organize the rally, scoffed at the idea of officers walking a beat for 90 minutes. "This is nothing," Foster said. "What difference will that make?"

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