The Police of New Orleans
are among the friendliest officers we've ever met, despite what you may
have heard in past years. With new leadership and better pay, the city
has taken steps to better serve it's citizens and it's tourists. But the
police can't be everywhere so keep your wits about you like you would in
any big city.
Anytime the sun was up, we found the French Quarter to be pretty safe.
The area along the N. Rampart St. side of the Quarter, and some
parts near Esplanade are probably not safe any time. Everywhere
else, the problems are more likely after dark.
So, the standard rules that most well traveled folk follow should
-Avoid being conspicuously alone
- the French Quarter crowd is said to still be pretty safe, although
petty crime rate is very real.
-Avoid looking stupidly rich or careless with your money. If someone
attempts to rob you, give them what they want.
- Don't chase after muggers - take in information about your situation
and give accurate descriptions to police.
-While sight seeing, figure out where your next stop will
be before heading out - in fact, plan your day as much as you can before
leaving your hotel.
-Walk with some resolve (I carried a wooden cane that I would swing
somewhat widely to scare some of the goofier assailants (This made me feel
better and comes in handy as I get older!).
-Taxis are cheap, regulated, and safe - take them anytime you think
maybe you should.
Here are some iffy-to-dangerous areas for you to watch,
especially at dusk and into the evenings:
Finally -Leave very valuable possessions at home. Nobody needs to
travel with lots of jewelry, and with ATMs everywhere, there's not a big
reason to walk around loaded with cash. If you purchase something valuable
from a reputable dealer, they will ship to your home address.
-Anywhere across Esplanade Avenue into Elysian Fields
-Any place approaching N. Rampart Street, from Canal to Esplanade.
Right around the intersection of Conti and N. Rampart
is the historic location of Storyville, the infamous red light district
of the late 1800's. Today, these are public housing neighborhoods and they
look rough to me. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is on Basin St. between Conti
and St. Louis. Don't go by yourself - you need a big group.
-If you are going anyplace at night in the CBD (Central Business
District), the Garden District, or the Warehouse District - take a taxi
or street car! You might take a look at the area during the day and get
Outside of the occasional pushy street person ("bet I can tell you where
you got your shoes!"), we have been threatened only once and mildly at
that. In fact, the worst thing that's ever happened to us was falling for
a couple of street scams. These take the form of a friendly stranger
walking up to you and attempting to shake your hand. He or she will look
like a typical Bourbon Street character, but he wants something. These
scams follow one of an array of strategies:
Further notes on street scams, according to "Big
Ray" Jones - the Buggy Driver, who is a good guy to ask about New Orleans,
especially the French Quarter:
"Bet I can tell you where you got your shoes" - Answer: "You got your shoes
on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana!
"Bet I can spell your last name" Answer: "Y-O-U-R L-A-S-T N-A-M-E"
"Where you from? Ohio! My sister lives in Ohio!" The time-shares come-on
will waste your time.
Someone will try to get you to follow them to enroll in special deals.
Somebody hands you a "free" New Orleans souvenir - then wants a donation
for a worthy sounding cause.
Now I'm the softest touch around, and I fell for some of these scams at
a cost of $1-$10 or 30 thirty minutes of my time. If you regularly give
to charities of your choice, you can probably live with any guilt you might
have over passing by a legitimate cause. You could also write a check later
to the appropriate organization.
All scam artists prey upon people. Granted they shouldn't, but many
people are just that naive and many others are just trying to be polite
and get sucked in. Ray suggests that the best policy is to avoid
such people. Strangers may speak as they're passing, but they seldom come
up, stop you, engage you in conversation and want to shake your hand unless
they want something from you. It is just not natural when you think about
The easiest way to avoid such people is to never let them stop you
in the first place. If they stop you, you're usually hooked unless you
don't mind being firm. I have absolutely no trouble saying, "Sorry, I'm
not interested..." and move on without giving them a chance to reply. If
they persist, then you can say, "Hey. I was being polite. I told you I
wasn't interested." and walk off again. If they come back again, you can
take the appropriate action (Ray recommends telling the next police
officer you see - He also points out that the French Quarter has plenty
of police on patrol.). The Golden Rule of the streets is, "Never play
another man's game!" no matter what it is. "
On a more serious note: The Dec. 1996 Issue of Money Magazine listed
New Orleans as the most dangerous city in the U.S. Four
people were murdered during the week we were in New Orleans in 1992. During
our 1/6/97, two children, watching television in their home in the Carrollton
area, were hit by stray bullets fired from the street. One of the kids
died as a result. Also, across the river in Algiers, a daylight robbery
resulted in the murder of a shopper at a local strip mall. This November
'99 a bullet riddled body was found in City Park and a couple of murders
involving family disputes occurred.
Everyone who comes up to you in such a manner is not a scam artist,
but they want something nevertheless. There are those selling time shares
(though they're scam artists in MY OPINION), those soliciting donations
for the Meals on Wheels Program (that's a valid program but I have no idea
if all of the solicitors are or not), and lots of other people who may
or may not be scam artists but still want something.
Of course, we've not witnessed any of these crimes ourselves.
Anyway, all this sounds like a typical week in any big city in which
we've ever lived or visited. Like every place else New Orleans was feeling
the pinch of a sagging economy in the 1990s (i.e., gangs, robberies, muggings,
poverty, homelessness, etc.) - the vast majority of murders seem to center
around drug activity and have little to do with tourists.
Ed Branley, of Virtually New Orleans
on the web, maintains that murder and assault doesn't usually apply to
tourists visiting the French Quarter:
Of the 360 or so murders that occurred in 1996, only four
apply to tourists - a woman chased a purse snatcher from St. Louis
Cemetery #2 into the nearby housing projects where she was shot, a man
was robbed and killed around Esplanade & Barracks near Port of Call,
a third man was killed when he wandered into a bad area around Basin &
Conti near St. Louis Cemetery #1, and a girl was accidentally killed by
her father when the handgun in a travel bag discharged. In other words,
get the lay of the land, and use your head like you should in any big,
The old NOPD has evolved under the guidance of new police superintendents
into a modern, effective agency for social control. The police we've talked
to are friendly and helpful - the last thing they want to do is arrest
someone - but the will if met with unreasonable behavior. There is
a police station smack
in the middle of the French Quarter (the 8th District Station House), and
patrol officers on foot and horseback move up and down Bourbon St.
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