The future of Lafayette’s downtown could include fewer police; as money runs out for off-duty security.
In 2005, Lafayette Police began heavily patrolling the downtown bar scene. Jim Craft, Lafayette Police Chief said, “It’s a group of officers that work every weekend there because of the clubs.”
Fast forward 10 years and money is running out for the special weekend detail. The city-parish council was forced to cut the detail budget almost in half in 2014, to help fund police pay raises. Craft, therefore, reduced the number of officers patrolling the downtown area.
“Overtime funds are being used to pay officers and that money could run out in May or June sometime,” Craft explained. “Hopefully, the council and the administration could give us some additional funds to finish out the year.”
If that doesn’t happen, the detail goes away. The chief said he doesn’t have the staff of money to provide on-duty police officers to patrol the area during those times. Nathan Norris, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority said the solution may not lie with the council alone, but with the downtown business owners.
In statement, Norris said, “I believe a more robust dialogue needs to be opened between the downtown bars, restaurants and police about how they can be just as effective with reduced resources. They can then figure out together what is necessary and what is not.”
Gus Rezende, President of the Downtown Lafayette Bar and Restaurant Association told News Ten over the phone: “We have engaged with police over the last 6 months, knowing all of the cuts that have been made. We have taken a proactive approach with staying in touch with the council and police to make sure we are fully prepared for whatever happens.”
Craft said police presence in necessary during normal weekends and during times when big events bring more people to the area.
“You have to have the resources to deal with everyone, “ he said
The Simcoe Street club scene has a detail on Friday and Saturday nights, which also could be cut in funds are not made available. Phil Lindon, owner of Grown Folks Daquiris and Miami Moon said, “It would be a tragedy if police would no longer patrol because it has deterred a lot of the crime in the area. I am in favor of whatever it takes for them to continue to patrol in that area.”