St. John sheriff, DA put on public spot over local crime
Published 12:00 am Monday, February 21, 2005
By VICKIE JAMBON
RESERVE – Recent violent crime in St. John the Baptist Parish, including two murders, had some members of the public demanding help from law enforcement officials Thursday night.
A panel of nine men addressed issues concerning violence in St. John the Baptist Parish in an open forum held Thursday night in the gymnasium of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Reserve.
Judge Thomas F. Daley moderated an open-dialogue discussion between parish residents and the panel in the second-such meeting to be held in less than one month.
The gymnasium filled to a standing-room-only capacity as seven public officials, a business owner and the meeting organizer seated themselves at a banquet table placed in the front of the gathering.
Addressing the public were: Edward Morris, meeting organizer, Sheriff Wayne L. Jones, Tommy Detreux, Chairman for the Chamber of Commerce, Ann LaBorde, Executive Director of Personnel/Legal Services for the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, Neal Bernard, Pastor of New Wine Christian Fellowship, District Attorney John Crum, Raynette Lennix, Director of Health and Human Resources, Joseph Johnson, Executive Director for St. John the Baptist Housing Authority and Dedrick Johnson, owner of Johnson Real Estate Investors L.L.C. and owner of Johnson Concrete Construction L.L.C.
Standing at a podium, Sheriff Jones told citizens elected officials were there to discuss recent crime and violence in the parish.
“This is a serious matter,” said Jones. “My principal responsibility as Sheriff is to bring criminals to justice. You should be able to close your doors and rest at night.”
Jones said homicides were to blame for the recent unrest in the parish.
The Sheriff cited the murders of Robert Jones on Dec. 28 and Byron Davis on Jan. 23 as being major components of retribution between one group of young men living in LaPlace and a second group residing in Reserve.
Jones said things quieted down in the parish after five arrests were made following the murders.
He added that young adults living in the two towns needed to living amongst each other harmoniously and not dangerously.
The sheriff said he is introducing several positive program into the correctional facility, beginning with a work-release program that will introduce reformed criminals back into society.
He said he is also working to improve visibility and to provide greater intelligence in the police department.
Jones urged parish residents to trust their sheriff’s office.
“We want you to think of us as your friends, not your enemies,” said Jones.
Once again, the sheriff asked the district attorney’s office and parish judges to work closer with him on prosecuting and sentencing repeat offenders.
The district attorney followed Jones to the pulpit.
Crum sighed as he told the audience his job was to pros-
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ecute parish residents.
With a sorrowful wince he said, “Unfortunately I have to prosecute citizens.”
Crum said he did his job effectively and maintained the district attorney’s office had nothing to improve upon.
He said the D.A.’s office was not to blame for criminals walking the streets and that public programs were the answer.
Crum recommended the First Offender Diversion Program, saying it was a positive way to deter crime.
The D.A. then told the audience single-parent households were to be blamed for crime.
“Kids don’t have dads in the house,” said Crum. “We need someone to help show those kids how to act.”
Crum told the audience his job was to deal with ‘community failures’ and when a concerned audience member asked the D.A. why he returned repeat drug offenders back to the streets, he lashed at the audience saying, it was up to people like them to tell him who repeat offenders are.
“You need to call me and tell me who the drug repeaters are,” said Crum.
Additional comments and observations will be included in part two of this story in the Wednesday edition of L’Observateur.