February 20th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Strict new French Quarter curfew nets almost 200 Mardi Gras arrests

New Orleans’ infamous French Quarter is awash in memorable sights and sounds, especially during the busiest and most colorful weekend of the year the one just before Mardi Gras Day. However, a strict tightening of the city’s curfew policy means revelers under the age of 16 must now be accompanied by a guardian if they’re going to visit the French Quarter after 8 p.m.

Proponents of the new curfew include New Orleans Police Cmdr. Jeffrey Walls, who’s quick to cite an ever-present mix of booze, nudity and violence as the reason for the change.

“We were having kids that were being victims and perpetrators of crimes,” argued Walls, who said prevention is his primary focus in the crackdown.

The newly strengthened curfew regulations apply seven days a week, but only in the French Quarter and the nearby Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Other areas of the city will continue to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew for those under 16, which was already on the books.

New Orleans City Council members unanimously passed the curfew change in January. Like many things in New Orleans, the change did not come without controversy. Critics have called the new curfew racist, arguing the new law specifically targets African-American neighborhoods where, they say, the presence of poor, black youth is too often considered a blight on the city’s treasured tourism and revenue.

Walls, tasked with leading the nightly curfew enforcement in the raucous French Quarter district, maintains it’s strictly “a public safety issue."

"It keeps the kids safe," Walls said. "This is an adult entertainment area. It's not like Disney World. … There’s really no reason for kids to be out after 8 o’clock unsupervised."

French Quarter vendor Henry Stapleton agrees. He runs a popular hot dog stand on legendary Bourbon Street. He has a unique nightly vantage point on some of the world’s most famous nightly debauchery. After too often watching 17- and 18-year-olds “chaperoning” 12- and 13-year-olds, Stapleton said a tightening of the curfew is in order.

“You’ve got children watching children. … That’s not a good combo,” Stapleton said.

A concern often repeated in opposition to the recent curfew change was its unintended impact on young African-American talent, specifically those seen tap-dancing and playing musical instruments for tips throughout the French Quarter’s evening hours. Walls contended such an argument is a nonstarter.

“We want to keep these kids safe. We don't want them to be victims of crime,” Walls said.

Another disagreement came from parents whose teenage children hold paying jobs in the French Quarter’s hundreds of restaurants and small souvenir stores. Police say exceptions are made for any curfew violators who can show proof of employment and provide confirmation of their late work schedules. So far, that has not been difficult to enforce, Walls said.

While critics initially argued the new curfew is likely to be ineffective and rarely enforced, initial 2012 Mardi Gras statistics may suggest otherwise. Out of 816 total Mardi Gras-related arrests so far this year, 170 have been curfew-related. Violators are arrested and taken to the city’s “Curfew Center” where a call is made home to parents. Walls said feedback so far from parents has actually been positive.

Charles Dorsey was visiting the French Quarter with his wife and four young children. He's an African-American military veteran, originally from New Orleans, who now lives in Oklahoma. Dorsey said he spent a lot of time in the French Quarter as a kid, although most visits were supervised by his parents. He echoed some of the policy’s critics in wondering about the motivation for a curfew change, but as a parent of two teenagers, he believes the curfew is a good idea overall. “I think it’s good to keep kids off the street late at night. There’s probably a lot down here they shouldn’t be exposed to." “I think it’s going to help the city business-wise in the end,” he added.

Along Saturday night’s packed Endymion Parade route, the Fitzgerald family from Atlanta was decked out in colored plastic beads, smiling from ear to ear at the passing floats. The public debate over the curfew has largely stayed off the Fitzgeralds’ radar, as they were in compliance celebrating the Mardi Gras season as a family.

Both Matthew and Michelle Fitzgerald insist their visit to the notorious Big Easy has been a fantastic family experience, and they’re not worried at all about the party atmosphere having a bad influence on their children, a teenager and three kids who looked to be between 6 and 12.

“I felt safe and everyone was very friendly. … It’s been a great time,” Matthew said.

If the Fitzgeralds are a good measure, it seems the new restrictions have gone largely unnoticed by those in compliance. For 170 other families that have received a late-night call from police at the Curfew Center this Mardi Gras, one thing seems clear: Police are taking the new curfew’s enforcement seriously.

soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Asia

    This is a great policy. Kids have no business being in the quarter after hours.

    February 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. scranton

    If parents would do their job this would be a non news story and curfews wouldn't be needed.

    February 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • loki301

      Have you seen the roving gangs of thuglettes that they have to deal with? I bet that the parents are, afraid of letting them in the house, for fear of being killed and robbed.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    @ scranton, most households takes both parents to work fulltime to support them, unless you wish to step up to the plate and do it? Also kids, especially teenagers are quite adept at sneaking out! Or has it been that long since you were young you forgot?

    February 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. chrissy

    Being a parent is byfar the hardest and yet most fulfilling job in the world. But it sure as hell doesnt come with a manuel. So yes *it takes a village.* We are responsible for not only our own, but what we do in front of others! Time and place people!

    February 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Patrick

    Yes we know the Heirloom Tomato Bloody Mary will be a hit in New Orleans this week. Remember to drink responsibly. Daz and I are headed out for Arizona Cocktail Week. I will be doing a demo and have my designated driver. @chrissy, @banasy, and @bobcat(iah), thank you for welcoming me. I am going home to the Rocky Mountain State early tomorrow but I will be back. Je'Taime to my wonderful Daz.

    February 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. informedunionvoter

    This is one of the last places I would ever want to go. A bunch of drunks exposing themselves in public. Sounds like a greaaat time.

    February 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      it's on my bucketlist..

      February 20, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Ah, leeintulsa, you make me laugh...

      February 20, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chrissy

    lol @ informed, me either!

    February 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Patrick

    Well welcome me to the deleted post club. What's up with that CNN? Totally on topic, no profanity. Anyway, farewell to my new buddies, @chrissy, @banasy, and @bobcat (IAH) Try my Heirloom Tomato Bloody Mary. Daz has the recipe. I am headed back to the Rocky Mountains tomorrow and will be back. @dazzle, Je Taime!!

    February 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      Safe passage, my friend.
      Oh, and I *will* be asking dazzle for the recipe.
      I adore a well-made Bloody Mary!
      You will be on the boards again....right?

      February 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I didn't see any post that was posted then deleted....

      February 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      @banasy, I will be back on the boards. If there is a Trader Joe's around you, the baby multi-colored Heirlooms are a steal.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lilburn Lady

    There are many other places in New Orleans to watch a night parade other than the quarter. Those areas aren't the subject of the eight o'clock curfew because they don't have the nudity, lewd behavior, pick pockets and dark alleys between streets that are all dangerous or inappropriate for teenagers on their own. I've been to many Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans and you can have just as much fun and catch just a many beads at parades outside the quarter with none of the "adult" entertainment aspect. I'm a grown woman with knowledge of the area and there is no way I would go unaccompanied into the French Quarter at night during Mardi Gras. Hat's off to the New Orleans council and the police for putting this curfew in place. The Quarter is no place for children after dark and it certainly won't impinge on any teenager's ability to enjoy Mardi Gras.

    February 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Illeagle-j1

    What parent would allow their children to go onto Burbon Street, during a regular day, let allone during Mardi Gras? Police, should enforce the curfew, any minor caught on the street, the parents will spend time in the slammer! That should bring the kids back in line. Let the punishment fit the SLIME.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. sister vivianne

    crime is a problem? since when? crime just replaces natural selection.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. thetruthteller

    This is a good thing, but it should be anyone under 18! And I don't care how old my kids are, they won't be sneaking out of my house! Parents needs to stop making excuses and make their kids behave and do the right thing. But, it generally isn't the hardworking people who have issues...it is the people who want to be their kids' friend and the people who are out getting drunk and doing stupid things themselves.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. hamsta

    @dazzle thats ok nopd has scraped up three separate people outside my house this year.thats why im glad i have a 250 gallon fish tank next to my bed.water dose a good job of slowing bullets down.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. chrissy

    aw sorry to see youre leaving patrick, but you know where to find us. And it was a pleasure reading your posts.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick

      @chrissy, my partner in crime on drive- by rooms, I will miss you but will be back on the boards when i get home. Then again home is only a physical dwelling and one's heart can be with someone else. Man, I screwed that one up.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hamsta

    i live in the 9nth ward murder capital of the world.most of the murders are over prescription drugs.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick

      @hamsta, wrong again. The murder capital of the world is Honduras. Why don't you just get out of there if you hate it so much.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      @ Patrick:
      I thought the 9th was largely uninhabitable?
      And I'll have to look if there is a Trader Joe's around me.
      Any chanve you can patch it with the lovely lady?

      February 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I thought Coober Pedy, Australia was the murder capital of the world. per capita, I mean.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Two men enter. One man leaves. Yes, I know it was a bad movie, but it was partly filmed in Coober pedy.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
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