Mar 302012
 

The proposed Upper Marleyville Security District would run along both sides of the street along Vendome Place, State Street Drive, Walmsley and Fontainbleau. (map via google.com)

A second meeting to discuss creating a new tax on homes along several Fontainebleau-area streets to hire additional security patrols did little Thursday night to bridge the divide between the idea’s strongly committed supporters and opponents.

Most of the 30 or so residents who attended seemed to leave the meeting with the same opinions they brought. Some see a security district as an obvious safety measure for crime-weary residents, while others view it as an expensive burden with no measurable results.

The proposed Upper Marlyville Security District would run along Vendome Place, State Street Drive, Fontainbleau and Walmsley, placing a new fee of up to $400 on property-tax bills that would then fund the hiring of private security guards or off-duty police officers to patrol the streets. The district will have to be approved by a majority of voters in its boundaries before it is created.

Kristri Trail, one of the organizers of the effort, described a litany of criminal offenses she has been subject to at her home in the last five years. Her house has been broken into five times, and she once witnessed a drive by shooting on her street while holding her 1-year-old child in her arms. More recently, a neighbor’s parked car was sideswiped by a driver who then stalled out down the street, giving the victim ample time to call 911 — but police didn’t arrive for 30 minutes, and the culprit had gotten away.

“If there was some extra presence, maybe they would have got the guy,” Trail said.

Some of her neighbors, particularly on State Street Drive where the opposition seems strongest, were unconvinced that a security guard would have helped. Moreover, the real problem is not that Fontainebleau is under-patrolled, but that the city police department is grossly understaffed, said Col. James Sehulster. Instead of creating more security districts, the city should do away with them all and raise property taxes to hire enough full-time officers.

“I think we’re putting a Band-aid on a gaping chest wound,” Sehulster said of the security district.

Many of the opponents said the current proposal won’t accomplish what the organizers promise, namely, 24-hour patrols. They count 340 parcels in the district, and a fee of $400 apiece will be insufficient to pay for a full-time officer, they say.

For Debbie Brockley, however, any increase will be an improvement.

“I don’t need statistics to show me,” Brockley said. “My common sense says, having more is better than having less.”

Jean Hopkins of Vendome Place said that she owns rental property in the Twinbrook Security District, and was initially opposed to that tax, since she didn’t get to vote on it. Since then, however, she’s found the patrols to be a “great marketing tool” for prospective renters worried about New Orleans’ infamous crime. Further, the residents in Twinbrook have been so pleased with the service that they’ve gradually increased the number of patrols, Hopkins said.

“It made a visible difference to those people in those area,” Hopkins said. “I’ve seen the benefit of it, and it works.”

Sheila Danzey of State Street Drive countered that she has already invested in expensive security measures, such as cameras, and doesn’t want to be forced into paying for a service she doesn’t support. The security district amounts to “taxation without representation,” especially since her property taxes already pay for the police department.

“I don’t come to your house and spend your money, and I don’t want anyone to come to my house and spend mine,” Danzey said. “I feel like I’m taxed to death. They want to tax us out of the city.”

Proponents of the district have offered to amend the bill to come up with a best fit for neighbors’ wishes, such as removing blocks that don’t want to be included, changing the governance of the district, or altering the fee or the number of hours of patrols.

“This is very far from a done deal,” said Scott Barron, president of the Claiborne-University Neighborhood Association. “The process of adjusting this is now.”

  4 Responses to “Fontainebleau residents remain divided over proposed security district”

  1. […] bill, Leger told the Claiborne University Neighborhood Association in a Thursday night meeting about a security district, would have given the city a way to meet those costs quickly. It would have been modified before […]

  2. Thanks for the nice, unbiased article! I’m looking forward to Uptown Messenger’s “Election Guide”! đŸ˜‰

  3. Unfortunately, the “more must be better” assumption cited above is incorrect. NOPD is operating on extremely limited manpower, something neighborhood leaders are reminded of during every NONPACC meeting. To believe that officer manpower will not be redistributed to other portions of Second District once you hire a private patrol is dangerously naive. Right now, the zone where CUNA members are seeking to create “Upper Marlyville Security District” enjoys the lowest crime rate, within NOPD’s safest district!
    I encourage you not to ignore the official crime statistics, but instead become educated by them, and distinguish between “feeling safe” and “being safe.” Some people will never feel safe, despite zero crimes happening — let’s not spend $225,000 a year for their warm fuzzies. And when hired “experts” like Shelley Landrieu come to sell you on the idea … without any empirical evidence in hand … please act like a skeptical consumer and ask the important questions. If their offer of an escort from your car to your door sounds appealing, stop and reflect on just how rarely crimes happen that way. If they claim that Security Districts help prevent crime, ask them where has that worked in any demonstrable way? Challenge your assumptions. Challenge those of the salespeople. Learn what personal safety ACTUALLY entails: Lights, fences, window coverings, good doors and locks, dogs, vigilance and alarms that get used regularly! Beyond that: Know thy neighbor, have 911 dialed and ready when walking, attend NOPD’s public meetings and Citizens Police Academy, volunteer at ProjectNOLA.com, take self-defense classes, etc.
    And please don’t ask me or my family to help you pay for any of that. If you’re still scared (of living in New Orleans, where sh!t sometimes happens), advocate for more police, learn to handle a weapon, fortify your home, and if all that fails … instead of pricing your neighbors out of Orleans Parish … contemplate a quiet life outside the city, as many others have done. But before you move, do please ask around: “Do you feel unsafe here, too?” Because remarkably (surely surprisingly to some at this meeting), the resounding answer is, “No, I feel quite safe here!”

  4. What is meant by a visible difference? Those who reject the notion that a security patrol equals a decrease in crime would ask: Absent any evidence that crime decreased because of the security patrol, how can one know if a “visible difference” was, in fact, made? And even if crime had decreased, what is to say it wasn’t the result of effective police work elsewhere? And to say that “common sense” tells you its working, statistics be damned, sounds more like nonsense than common sense.

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