AP, June 19, 2006
NEW ORLEANS — Acting at the mayor’s request, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Monday she would send National Guard troops and state police to patrol the streets of New Orleans after a bloody weekend in which six people were killed.
“The situation is urgent,” Blanco said. “Things like this should never happen, and I am going to do all I can to stop it.”
One hundred National Guardsmen with law enforcement experience and 60 state police officers were to be sent to the city Tuesday. Up to 200 more troops would be deployed after that, said Denise Bottcher, the governor’s spokeswoman.
Earlier Monday, Mayor Ray Nagin had asked for as many as 300 National Guardsmen and 60 state police officers.
It was the first time the National Guard has been used for law enforcement in the United States since the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Community leaders have raised fears that the violence could discourage people from moving back to New Orleans.
The National Guard had as many as 15,000 soldiers in the city in the weeks after Katrina. As many as 2,000 stayed until February, said Louisiana National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Pete Schneider.
The police force has been operating with depleted ranks. It has about 1,375 officers, compared with about 1,750 before Katrina. The city’s pre-Katrina population of 465,000 has rebounded to about half its size.
The killings over the weekend brought this year’s murder toll to 53, raising fears that violence was back on the rise in a city that was plagued by violent crime before Katrina drove out much of the population last year.
Priority No. 1
Crime has been creeping back into the city: 17 killings in the first three months of 2006, and 36 since the start of April.
At least three other people, ages 16 to 27, have been fatally shot in the same area where the five teenagers were killed early Saturday.