Louisiana Guardsmen Patrol New Orleans, Provide Security
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
NEW ORLEANS, Sep. 4, 2008 Louisiana National Guardsmen troops here are conducting presence patrols, providing security for returning Hurricane Gustav evacuees and letting them know the city is safe.
“We’re basically out there showing our face and helping the public with anything we can,” said Army Sgt. Darren Chabert, Louisiana National Guard. “The most important aspect of maintaining a presence is reassuring the public they’re going to be safe as they arrive into the city.”
Residents began pouring back into New Orleans and surrounding parishes today after local authorities lifted roadblocks positioned on Interstate 10. Initially, residents were urged not to return until midnight tonight to ensure they had running water and power. Unfortunately, according to National Guard officials, city services are only partially functioning, and the number of people returning is growing by the hour.
The sudden influx of evacuees returning to New Orleans is coming from central and western Louisiana. Most of the city fled to those regions unknowing that Gustav would cause more damage there than their homes, Chabert said.
“People evacuated west trying to steer clear of the hurricane,” he said, “but, inevitably, they ended up getting hit harder than if they would have just stayed home here. If they’re going to be without amenities, they might as well be here at their own homes.”
More people entering the city increases the likelihood of crimes and foul play, which is why the citizen-soldiers here are putting such an emphasis on presence patrols, explained Chabert, who grew up five blocks from New Orleans’s French Quarter.
Army 1st Sgt. Chris Beeson, Louisiana National Guard, said the key to making people feel safe and secure is by walking the streets and actually talking to them. During a patrol today in the French Quarter, the few citizens on the streets were more than cordial to him and his troops. People were taking photos of the troops and yelling praises from their bar stools.
“It’s important to let people be comfortable, to let them know it’s okay to come out of the houses, because we’re here to help make the city safe and maintain security,” Beeson said. “We just want to do our best to support the community and let them know we’re here for them.”