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Military Police Arrive To Combat Crime In New Orleans

Katrina cars finally getting towed from streets of New Orleans - Nearly 10 months after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana officials on Monday began hauling away more than 100,000 flooded cars and boats the storm left strewn across New Orleans and southern Louisiana. State officials say the clean up should be complete by August 30 -- one year and a day after Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast. The massive scope of the job, changes in contractors, and concerns that citizens be given ample time to reclaim their private vehicles were all cited as reasons the clean up has taken so long. "Quite frankly I share the same frustration everyone else does," said Chuck Brown, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The clean-up effort will include boats and cars abandoned after Hurricane Rita in southwestern Louisiana, officials said. A 33 million dollar contract to haul away the abandoned vehicles has been awarded to a private Alabama company that plans to hire local drivers to help with the massive tow job. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
New Orleans (AFP) Jun 21, 2006
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on Tuesday welcomed 100 military police officers and 60 state police troopers deployed to help New Orleans deal with a flood of violent crime as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

"Criminals -- hear me loud and hear me clearly," Blanco said while flanked by the new troops. "There is law and order in New Orleans."

With a battery of national media cameras flashing, Blanco sought to erase any doubt that the recovering city is still a safe place to live, work and visit.

"We are open for business and this city is safe for tourists," she said while trying to downplay the extraordinary security deployment.

But the police chief warned that criminals have taken advantage of the isolation caused by thousands of abandoned homes and are using some of those flooded wrecks to stash and deal their drugs.

"It's going to be a long hot summer," Police Chief Warren Riley warned the assembly of soldiers and troopers.

The blue-uniformed state troopers are expected to be assigned to the French Quarter. The shotgun-toting National Guard troops, attired in desert combat fatigues, were expected to begin patrols of largely vacant residential neighborhoods Tuesday evening.

About 15,000 Guardsmen patrolled the streets of New Orleans in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, which flooded most of the city and killed up to 1,500 people along the Gulf Coast.

The final troops left in February but a sharp rise in violence that killed 53 people this year -- including five teenagers gunned down last weekend -- led to calls for their return.

"We'll be here as long as we need to," Lieutenant Colonel Pete Scheider, spokesman of the Louisiana National Guard, told AFP. "We haven't been told a timeline. The soldiers want to work themselves out of a job."

Anyone the military police arrest will be turned over to New Orleans police for transportation and booking. Police will also be responsible for targeting key criminal activities.

The city is also expected to impose a curfew for teenagers. Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced Tuesday that he will open a juvenile curfew center to house any curfew violators while also working with the parks department to rebuild damaged playgrounds.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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