Murders, rapes cripple St. John crime rates

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 7, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – The 2004 FBI Uniform Crime Report released Tuesday morning by the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office revealed violent crime within the parish rose significantly over the past year – with murder topping the charts at 267 percent.

According to the crime report, forcible rape increased 50 percent, burglary rose 16 percent and larceny escalated 13 percent. Robberies grew 9 percent and motor vehicle theft rose 4 percent.

The only crime to decrease this year was assault. It dropped 20 percent from 388 incidents in 2003 to 312 occurrences in 2004.

While three parish murders were committed in 2003, 11 homicides were committed in 2004 – six of them in the fourth quarter.

The report indicates one murder was committed in each of the following months: February, April, September and November. Two murders occurred in both June and October and three murders were committed in December.

Nine rapes transpired in 2004 – four in the first quarter and five in the fourth quarter. Six rapes took place in 2003.

Burglaries rose from 237 in 2003 to 276 in 2004, for an increase of 39 incidents.

Larceny climbed to 834 in 2004 – reflecting 94 additional episodes since 2003.

Three additional robberies and five additional car thefts were committed in 2004.

Robberies rose from 35 to 38 and auto thefts escalated from 115 to 120.

Overall, the total number of crimes in the parish rose from 1524 in 2003 to 1,600 in 2004, for an increase of 5 percent.

“I pay close attention to these crime statistics. This is only the second time in my nine years as sheriff that I have seen an increase in the crime rate,” said Sheriff Wayne L. Jones. “The number of homicides was concerning to me. This is a difficult thing to prevent.”

Jones said five of the 11 murders were domestic and that alcohol played a role in some of the incidents.

“People have personal conflicts that often end disastrously. Individuals need to separate or depart from one another’s presence before things get out of control,” said Jones.

The sheriff said he is initiating programs that will help counsel individuals affected by domestic abuse.

Jones said eight of the 11 murders were solved by the Sheriff’s Office.

“My men have worked hard to solve most of the murders that occurred this year and to make arrests,” said Jones. “Wayne Mitchell’s murder and Natasha Butler’s murder have not been solved, as of yet. However, my men have obtained hundreds of pieces of evidence, providing us with DNA.”

The murder of Steven Anthony Jones also remains unsolved.

Jones maintains he needs the public’s participation in solving crime. He said it is difficult to get witnesses to come forward and to testify about the things they see and know.

The sheriff said he strengthened law enforcement this year by adding police officers to the traffic, detective, narcotics and patrol divisions. He said he continued to maintain full manpower in other divisions.

“I have staffed more police officers in the parish and I maintain police visibility that is clear to the citizenry,” said Jones.

Jones stressed how hard his detectives work to wrap up murder cases.

Aside from domestic murders, the sheriff cited murders committed by young individuals with no disdain for law enforcement.

“There are young people in the parish who have no responsibility for the citizenry. With these, I will play hard ball,” said Jones.

Public Information Officer Maj. Michael Tregre contended there is no direct cause for the increase of crime in the parish but conveyed the situation is correctable.

“We will continue to bring good solid cases to the criminal justice system. We will continue to ask citizens to work with us and we are going to continue to ask for community involvement,” said Tregre.

The spokesman said arrests alone do not bring crime numbers down and maintained the Sheriff’s Office will continue to utilize available resources to fight parish crime.

Jones said the parish is growing at a fast rate and that today’s society is different than what it once was. He said he will continue to work hard to bring safety to the parish.

In recent public outcries, the Sheriff has asked residents and local officials to help him retard and solve crime.

The Parish Council and the District Attorney’s Office have made recent pledges to work with the Sheriff towards toughening liquor license applications and stringently prosecuting repeat offenders.

Community organizations and local clergy are uniting with Jones by introducing programs designed to reduce crime.