Sheriff takes proactive approach, identifies ‘hot spots’

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 13, 2002


LAPLACE – Crime took a slight increase in St. John the Baptist Parish from the same time last year, according to Sheriff Wayne L. Jones.

However, he said he is taking a proactive approach and has already identified nine “hot-spots” across the parish, where his Special Operations group is using its mobile command center to bring down “annoyance” crimes, as well as address one of the biggest crime problems – burglaries.

Burglary went up 22 percent during January-March 2002, as compared to the same period in 2001, Jones said, with 62 incidents this year and 51 incidents last year.

“Most of them are residential,” he said.

The special unit is already hard at work across the parish, with several arrests already done in Reserve and Garyville.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office keeps tabulations of seven crime categories in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, including murder, rape, robbery, theft, burglary, auto theft and assaults.

The sheriff’s office compiles the statistics for the FBI’s national record-keeping, and the information is derived from crimes reported to the sheriff’s office.

The January-March 2002 period listed 427 incidents, below the same period in 2001 which listed 411 incidents, and reflected a 4 percent increase.

“This is manageable,” Jones commented.

Murder had no change from last year, one incident in the first quarter of each year. Rape, likewise, had no change from last year, with no incidents in either year.

However, robbery jumped 30 percent, from 10 to 13 incidents; and burglary climbed 22 percent, from 51 to 62 incidents. Theft had a 6 percent increase, from 181 to 191 incidents. Auto theft increased by 2 percent, from 43 to 44 incidents.

After the release of the information, Jones took the opportunity to voice his concerns about a newly activated state law which changed the penalty of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute from a mandatory five-year sentence to one left to the trial judge’s discretion.

“This is detrimental to law enforcement,” Jones said, who added he was told the reasoning for the law is because parishes were “spending too much money” in locking up criminals, rather than rehabilitation.

However, a “crack-head back out on the streets instead of behind bars,” the sheriff said, will increase the likelihood of property crimes occurring.

To the good, assault in St. John Parish went down 7 percent during the first quarter of 2002, from 125 to 116 incidents. Jones advised there are many common-sense things people can do to cut down on burglaries, from making sure doors and windows are locked as much as possible, especially when the residents are away, to having a neighbor retrieve any mail, newspapers or deliveries when the residents are out of town.

Jones said he hoped that with such measures, combined with increased visibility of law enforcement officers, burglary can be brought under control.