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Police, guard troops patrol neighborhoods ahead of Gustav


Across the New Orleans region, holdout residents, including some who stayed through Hurricane Katrina, were bracing for the worst as they planned to ride out Hurricane Gustav. But there's one thing they weren't expecting this time: crime.
As a National Guard vehicle slowly cruised an Uptown neighborhood off Oak Street, Gary Nguyen, 36, owner of the Stop N' Carry store at the corner of Willow and Dante streets, said he sensed a different attitude.
"I feel safe," said Nguyen, who remained at his property during Katrina three years ago and planned to hunker down again for Gustav. "I see a police presence. I see a military police presence. I see a lot more people staying who own property. The troublemakers, I think they will leave."
On a white shotgun cottage a couple of blocks away, residents had drawn an elaborate sign featuring a rifle and a handgun, with the words, "We shoot looters," neatly printed underneath. A white Obama '08 campaign sign rested on the same porch.
Law enforcement in Orleans and Jefferson parishes reported a sense of calm across the region Sunday afternoon. Residents who prepared to ride out the storm said they weren't fearing random, guns-drawn lawlessness.
"The only thing I'm afraid of is not opening my eyes in the morning," said Wayne Alexis, 47, as he worked at a Lower 9th Ward gas station.
"Many people have heeded the advice of parish government, and it so far has been calm," said Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.
Deputies will aggressively enforce the dusk-to-dawn curfew and are ready for any scofflaws, Fortunato said. "We emptied out our correctional facility to make bed space available for any new visitors," he said.
National Guard Humvees and police cars stood at major intersections, while unmarked police sedans roamed neighborhoods.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said the state will see an influx by Monday or Tuesday of about 16,000 National Guard troops from other states.
About 1,800 soldiers, mainly with the 256th Brigade Combat Team, patrolled the east bank of New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. In Algiers, troops were posted with police officers along Gen. de Gaulle Drive.
About 230 troops are posted in Jefferson Parish, though the Guard has no plans to have soldiers stay on the West Bank, where Sheriff's Office cruisers are visibly out in force.
"Everything's calm actually," said Ronnie Bonin, a New Orleans native dressed in his Guard fatigues as he filled up plastic gas cans at a St. Claude Avenue gas station. "We've been giving rides to civilians, especially the elderly."
"The federal government is on top of it this time," said Robert Mitchord, as he watched television news at the Shop N' Carry corner store.
By Sunday afternoon, New Orleans was a ghostly place. Homes were barricaded by plywood boards on windows and doors.
In East Jefferson, Sheriff's Office Detective Eddie Greer and his K-9, Max, sat in front of a shuttered Walgreens at Clearview Parkway and Airline Drive in Metairie about 11 a.m., watching the unusually thin traffic. Greer and other deputies had been ready to assume manual traffic direction. But they mostly fielded requests for directions and inquiries about the nearest filling station.
"It's been going pretty good," Greer said.
Shortly after noon, with no major traffic problems to report, the Sheriff's Office reassigned its deputies working contraflow control, Fortunato said.
In Harahan, the streets were empty, but Police Chief Peter Dale said a disconcerting number of residents, many of them elderly, were planning to ride out the storm.
There also were some holdouts in Kenner.
"You've got people that want to stay," said Police Chief Steve Caraway, adding that many business owners were out Sunday afternoon securing their property. "It's a normal day as far as calls go."
Westwego Deputy Police Chief Ronald Still said the small city has been abandoned by most residents. No burglaries have been reported.
"It seems like most people are evacuating," Still said. "Very few people are here."

Story From: Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
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