Mardi Gras attracts a lot of visitors that are visiting New Orleans for the first time. It may also be the first time some of these tourists have ever been in a large city. Crime is everywhere, and New Orleans is no exception. Sadly, due to the large crowds, criminals find it easier to prey on unsuspecting tourists.
There are many ways to stay safe and prevent belongings from being stolen during Mardi Gras or any other large event.
Be Aware of the Surroundings
It seems like common sense, but in the midst of a lively party like Mardi Gras, people often forget that criminals are everywhere.
It is very easy to get carried along with a crowd and suddenly find yourself on a deserted street. Differing groups of people walking away from the Mardi Gras parade in the same general direction eventually disperse, leaving the last person or couple alone. Safety in numbers only works if the numbers are there.
Many streets in New Orleans only permit parking on one side of the street. Walk on the opposite side, away from the parked cars. This makes it more difficult for a potential pickpocket to attack unwitting Mardi Gras revelers.
Park vehicles only in well-lighted public parking lots, such as those near the Riverwalk. The expense is well worth the safety, and the parking lots forego any risk of being towed or receiving a ticket for mistakenly parking in a “resident’s only” area.
Carrying a tote bag is recommended to ease the neck-strain that is sure to develop from collecting a large quantity of Mardi Gras beads – this advice comes with a voice of experience. However, nothing of value should be in that bag.
I was traveling alone on business during my very first visit to New Orleans. In the late afternoon, I met a man originally from Ohio. He gave me many pieces of advice, but the most important thing he said was:
“Girl…you’ve got to lose that purse!”
I was, of course, carrying my purse with my camera, wallet, credit cards, ID and cash. I was instructed to walk back to my car (along with notations of which streets to avoid) and stash my purse in my trunk. I then placed my ID, debit card and cash in the front pocket of my jeans, along with my car key. During every subsequent trip to New Orleans, I followed this practice.
During my Mardi Gras visit, I carried a small belt pack to hold my camera, lipstick and aspirin.
Have Fun, but Be Wary
New Orleanians are well-known for their hospitality. While visiting during the 2008 BCS National Championship Game, we were invited to join a group of local tailgaters. These people love their city and appreciate every visitor. Unfortunately, there are criminals that use this ploy to prey on tourists.
Never accept a ride from anyone. Taxis in New Orleans run 24 hours a day. It may be necessary to walk a couple of blocks to get away from the large crowds in order to hail a taxi, but it will be much safer.
Feel free to join in when invited to a picnic in the park or on the streets during a Mardi Gras parade. However, never go to a strange neighborhood. The French Quarter, Uptown, Central Business District, the Garden District and the Marigny are all wonderful areas and very easy to walk to. The ease of walking only works if the pedestrian knows where he is and where he is going.
Enjoy your first visit to New Orleans, but remember: you aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Source: Personal Experience