New Orleans considers French Quarter curfew for kids
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.
The 16-year-olds of New Orleans (not to mention those under 16) may soon be barred from experiencing all of the doings that transpire on Bourbon Street on a typical Friday or Saturday night.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in the City That Care Forgot debated whether to set an 8 p.m. weekend curfew for children 16 and younger in the French Quarter and part of the nearby, nightclub-intensive Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.
The issue has sparked heated arguments about race and the essential priorities of a city with the highest per capita murder rate in the country.
Bruce Eggler of the Times-Picayune reports that the curfew was proposed by City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who says she wants to protect children from a part of town where alcohol consumption is particularly high.
For many tourists, of course, a taste of liquor (or, more accurately, a 99-ounce Bacardi 151 frozen-raspberry Uber-gulp served in a plastic cup shaped like a hand grenade) is the French Quarter's main draw, along with the titillating lure of professional and amateur naked girls, and perhaps a little rump-shaking music.
One might forgive the sober-minded residents of, say, Salt Lake City, for thinking this sounds like the kind of family-friendly proposal that everyone can get behind. But New Orleans is the kind of place where accusations of racism permeate civic discussions of matters of sweeping historical consequence, such as the post-Katrina fate of its housing projects, as well as the most mundane aspects of governing, such as the awarding of trash contracts.
In the case of the curfew, some residents who spoke at the council meeting wondered why the 8 p.m. curfew would not be citywide. (In other neighborhoods, an existing 11 p.m. weekend curfew would remain in force.)
"Some accused the council of caring more about tourists and white-owned businesses in the French Quarter than residents of the predominantly black neighborhoods where most of the city's 199 murders in 2011 occurred," Eggler wrote.
One man said the council was "putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound to the head."
Ronal Serpas, the police superintendent, said that in the area covered by the proposed curfew, 60 of the 236 violent crimes committed after 8 p.m. last year resulted in the arrest of a juvenile.
[For the Record, 2:31 p.m., Jan. 5: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that 1,999 murders had occurred in New Orleans in 2011.]
-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: A rare instance of locals crowding Bourbon Street in the hours after the Saints 2010 Super Bowl victory. Credit: Jeff Haller / Keyhole Photo