Guard in full force

Published 12:53 am Sunday, December 30, 2007

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — With thousands of visitors expected in New Orleans over the next week for New Year’s and college football games, the Coast Guard is beefing up its presence in the city.

‘‘We want to be ready,’’ Petty Officer 3rd Class James Harless said. The goal is to help police ensure the festivities are safe, he said.

For years, the Coast Guard has been stepping up its presence in the water and air in response to Mardi Gras and other major events in the city. Its latest effort will begin Monday, New Year’s Eve, and run through Jan. 7, when Louisiana State University plays Ohio State for the Bowl Championship Series title, he said.

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The increased presence seems limited, at least so far, to the Coast Guard.

Maj. Michael Kazmierzak, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard, said Guard members will not play an ‘‘active role’’ in security at the Superdome, where the Sugar Bowl and BCS title game will be played. The Guard has 300 soldiers and airmen on active duty in New Orleans, helping police patrol less-populated sections of the city, and they’re not expected to be shifted from those neighborhoods.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Air National Guard would enforce flight restrictions near the Superdome.

Such restrictions are often in place during large events.