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New Orleans Says City Is Safe for Essence Festival

Bourbon Street Shooting
Blood stains are seen on the sidewalk at the scene of a shooting that happened early Sunday morning, June 29, 2014, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Nine people were injured, one seriously, according to New Orleans Police. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Gerald Herbert—AP

Heightened security after last weekend's Bourbon Street shooting

Deputy Mayor of New Orleans Judy Reese Morse says attendees of the 20th annual Essence Festival can rest assured that the city will keep them safe in the wake of last weekend’s shooting in the French Quarter.

“For this weekend, we’ve got what we need to make sure that the city is safe and that the city is secure,” Morse tells TIME. “[The shooting] was a very, very unfortunate incident. It’s something that we focus on every day, not only in the French Quarter, but in neighborhoods across the city.”

Morse said the city has increased security as a result of last weekend’s shooting, which left one dead and nine injured after two gunmen opened fire on the ever-packed Bourbon Street in the Crescent City’s famed French Quarter. The shooting was the third in the past three years on the famous street, the Associated Press reports, but it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time—just days ahead of the 20th annual Essence Music Festival, where headliners like Prince and Lionel Richie are expected to bring thousands to the city.

As a precaution, 30 state troopers have reportedly been deployed in the city and Morse says the city is working to reassure festival-goers and New Orleans residents that they will be safe.

“We’ve got the security in place. We’ve informed all of our hotels,” Morse says. “This is a great place, it is safe and they’ll have a great experience this weekend.”

Though the focus of the Essence Music Festival is family fun and empowerment, there will be moments throughout the weekend that address the violence that plagues New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has overseen a reduction in the number of murders from 193 in 2012 to 155 in 2013, thanks in large part to the city’s community outreach through the NOLA for Life initiative. But Morse says there’s still a lot of work to be done, and that the Essence Festival is the perfect time to address the issue.

“New Orleans is going to be 300-years-old in 2018, but we’ve got a situation right now that we’ve got to get our arms around and that is bringing down the rate of murder, particularly among African American men,” Morse says. “There’s no better time or place than Essence to take that issue head on.”

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