Clergy calls for action against St. John violence

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Ministers and clergy from the tri-parish region met with St. John the Baptist law enforcement Thursday afternoon in the New Wine Christian Fellowship on Airline Highway to discuss solutions to the recent outbreak of violence in parish communities.

Neal Bernard, pastor of New Wine Christian Fellowship, hosted the social outpouring at his church and invited pastors, social organizations and citizens to attend – what he hopes will be – one of many meetings held to address recent murders and crimes in the parish.

Addressing a small crowd of people, which included Sheriff Wayne L. Jones, Public Information Officer Maj. Michael Tregre, Chief Harold Klibert and Chief Investigator for the District Attorney’s Office Maj. David Lorenzo, Bernard emphasized the need to curb violence and to stem a tide of murder.

Ed Morris, member of St. Charles Baptist Church, organized Thursday’s meeting.

Morris recommended the community initiate a ‘Gun Buy Back’ program.

“If we can get 20 guns off the street, that is 20 guns that will not be available for killing someone.

Invited by Bernard to speak, Sheriff Jones said the Buy-Back program was a good program.

“Another parish that I am aware of initiated this program in 1998. After operating the program for three months, crime was reduced 16 percent,” said Jones.

The sheriff said that although recent crimes involved the entire community, more recent incidents consisted of black-on-black violence among teenagers that were 16, 17 and 18 years of age.

“These teens have no fear for law enforcement. They do whatever they want to do,” said Jones. “They wear inscribed tee-shirts, symbolic of the area in which they live, grouping themselves together – one area against another. What these people say and write on their shirt is offensive to everyone.”

Jones said if a member of one group is killed, that group vows to kill a member of the attacking group. The action goes back and forth, perpetuating a flow of unceasing violence.

Jones said it is important for pastors, schools and parents to support him, as a law enforcer, in making arrests.

“I am asking you to turn in individuals you know are guilty of criminal activity,” said Jones. “It is important you call law enforcement when you know someone that is dealing drugs.”

Jones also emphasized the importance of the Sheriff’s Office investigating anyone applying for a liquor license.

“Individuals with criminal histories are opening clubs and running them improperly. I have no problem with a well-run club that follows the rules. However, we (law enforcement) are seeing unmanaged bar rooms opening up. They do not follow the rules and they allow improper activity to take place I believe some of this could be circumvented if the Sheriff’s Office was allowed to do a thorough investigation before the Parish Council granted a permit,” said Jones.

The sheriff maintained that parish council members play politics when it comes to issuing liquor licenses.

“Council members want to play politics and pass the ball. Pass the ball to me and I will hit on it,” said Jones.

The most serious statement made by Jones was when he said, “If this wave of crime continues on, we will have a serious problem in our parish. We (law enforcement) can continue to mop up blood afterwards and make arrests. However, we need to work together as a community to prevent some of these incidents before they occur.”

Deputy Accessor Bruno Burrell said, “One thing contributing to this problem is we have children having children. That is where this has started. We have parents that do not know how to raise and instruct their children. It is boiling over.”

Bernard said there are things that each person can do.

“Those things make a difference. Everyone needs to play a part. I believe one positive outlet is organizing all-night basketball,” said Bernard.

Bernard then directly addressed Lorenzo saying, “I hold your department, the District Attorney’s Department, personally responsible. Our children come to you when they are juveniles and you put them back on the street. They then come back to you as adults and you then put them in jail or on death row. You have heard suggestions here today recommending rehabilitation programs in the prison system. I charge you personally to take this message back to the district attorney.”

Joyce Brown, pastor of Faith, Healing and Deliverance Ministries Church stood to her feet. Passionately evoking emotion, she said, “Daniel, in the Bible, was one man. Daniel was put in the lion’s den for doing what he believed was right. God was with him. God was for him. Because Daniel took a stand for what he believed and for what he did, a whole nation followed him.”

On Friday morning, Tregre said, “We need more community involvement. This is not a white problem. This is not a black problem. This is a community problem. Our clergy are far reaching in the tri-parish region. We need to unite and stay focused in discussing the solution, rather than the problem.