Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Staff Reporter

LAPLACE- Crime in St. John the Baptist Parish is down as compared to first quarter reports from last year, largely due to a particularly marked decrease in the number of recorded assaults.

According to reports released by Sheriff Wayne L. Jones office, the first quarter showed a 16 percent decrease in overall crime in contrast to statistics from the months of January to March of 2004.

However, out of the seven categories of uniform crime, only three actually showed individual decreases: forcible rape, assaults and motor vehicle theft.

The biggest drop was in assaults, which showed a 58 percent decrease, with only 70 assaults compared to last year’s 167.

According to Mike Tregre, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, the drop is the result of stricter requirements for those who file charges on assaults.

Tregre said that those filing charges against their alleged attacker are now informed they will have to go completely through the process of pressing charges, which includes going to trial. This deters those filing for purposes more related to humiliation tactics, who may do so over minor assaults.

“People want to see (their attacker) handcuffed, finger-printed, their picture taken, their name in the paper and then they want to drop it,” Tregre said.”If you file charges, you now have to go all the way.”

Attempted murder cases fall in the category of assaults.

The department has on record two homicide cases this quarter, up from one at this time last year. According to Jones, both of the homicides have been solved.

Robbery showed an increase of 44 percent, with 13 cases reported this year, and burglary was up by nine cases.

Jones said robbery is discouraged by high visibility of police officers, and he has recently added four vehicles to its traffic division. Jones said they are active in patrolling areas around banks and shopping centers.

Tregre also pointed out that some of these robberies are not aggravated, but actually very minor incidents.

“Some have merit, and some don’t have merit, but they all have to be dealt with,” Tregre said.

Also, added to burglary numbers are vehicle break-ins, that Tregre said have a pattern of occurring in spurts, with what seems like people coming into the vicinity specifically to break into automobiles.

“You’ll get a few cars in one night and then nothing for a while,” he said.

Sheriff Jones said that while he is “optimistic” about the overall decrease, he is “with caution.”

Though this is the lowest first quarter since the sheriff took office, he states there are obviously areas that need to be focused on.

“This is only the first quarter of the game, and we’ve got a way to go, Jones said, “the second quarter tends to get busier.”

Jones said he has plans to try to “squeeze the budget” to add one more unit to each shift, and said right now the office has no less than 27 patrols on the streets during peak hours, which are from noon to 2 a.m.

Jones also said the awareness of the community has been beneficial, and in order to continue to hinder crime, the office needs more calls from citizens.