St. John crime up, rape, auto thefts

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 7, 2006

Sheriff urges common sense


Managing Editor

LAPLACE — Thefts of building materials and other items at construction sites have already had their impact on crime statistics in St. John the Baptist Parish, Sheriff Wayne L. Jones said Thursday.

A 7 percent increase in St. John crime is also partially due to a 28 percent jump in motor vehicle thefts, as Jones reviewed the first six months of 2006 with the previous year’s numbers. &#8220The numbers are what they are,” Jones said. &#8220I’m excited about the growth in the parish, but we have to keep up with the crime.”

The sheriff said he expects his department to stay busy through the remainder of 2006, foreseeing a similar increase for the latter half of this year, and said, &#8220I don’t see any letup.”

Homicide went from two incidents during January-June 2005 to three incidents in 2006, including the murder of his own narcotics commander, Capt. Octavio Gonzalez in June. &#8220Arrests have been made in all three incidents,” Jones noted.

Robbery and assaults each decreased from one year to the next – the only decreases in the first-half statistics. Robbery went from 20 to 17 incidents, a 15 percent decrease. Assaults went from 131 to 104 incidents, a 21 percent decrease.

However, forcible rape doubled, from five to 10 incidents. Nearly all, Jones said, involved a victim who placed herself in a &#8220questionable” situation, while only one involved an attacker in the home. None involved a home invasion, he added.

Burglaries increased, from 144 to 163 incidents, a 13 percent increase. Larceny theft increased from 441 to 487 incidents, a 10 percent increase. And motor vehicle thefts jumped from 54 to 69 incidents, a 28 percent increase.

Jones said he is increasing patrols in construction areas, in an attempt to cut into those theft and auto theft numbers.

Also, he is looking to add eight more officers toward the end of the year, adding them to the active force by early 2007.

This is being paid for by a $900,000 revenue increase, including $400,000 in sales tax and $500,000 in ad valorum tax revenue. &#8220We anticipate another good year,” Jones added.

Besides expanding the force, St. John deputies across the board can look forward to a $150 per month raise in January. And, if approved by the Legislature, an increase in State Supplemental Pay, from $425 per month, may come as well. The average deputy makes $36,000 a year, the sheriff said.

Jones said he also plans to reorganize patrol districts from eight to 10, boosted with the additional manpower and improving response time.

&#8220We want to stay a bit ahead of crime,” Jones said.