Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2011

(Continued from Wednesday)

(Editor’s note: St. John sheriff candidate Aaron Lions has been out of town with a family emergency and was unable to return the questionnaire in time for publication. L’Observateur hopes to run his responses when he returns.)

What will you do to keep the parish’s youth off the streets and out of trouble?

Wayne Jones: My office continues to work in trying to accomplish this very significant problem. After school programs are a must. More athletic and academic programs would be beneficial as well. The primary focus should be parental involvement, it is absolutely essential and the key to improving the situation of keeping youth out of trouble. My staff will continue to add programs to keep our youth off the streets.

Mike Tregre: As a citizen of St. John, I have spent countless hours on the weekends and at night, volunteering as a soccer coach and a basketball coach. I think that when kids are involved in some sort of organized recreational activity, no matter what they choose, then it leaves little time for them to stray away. I have found in my time as a volunteer and as a parent that when kids participate in sports where team work and discipline are key to success, then they are less likely to get in trouble. But sports and recreation do not always work. As Sheriff of St. John, I will implement a program called “About Face.” This is a program structured for troubled or “at risk” youth. These kids need mentoring and tough love. Who besides parents are better mentors to “at risk” youth than police officers? If an officer can develop a relationship with a kid through a game of softball or soccer and some other forms of discipline, then these kids may not grow up learning to fear or not trust police officers. I will ask the judges and the DA to work with me by sentencing young offenders to this program where there will be evening and weekend sessions for kids and parents as well. This will be the start of getting kids turned in the right direction.

A successful law enforcement agency must have the trust and backing of the community it serves. What will you do to build a trusting relationship with the people of St. John the Baptist Parish?

WJ: I am proud of the relationship my office and I have with our citizens. As your Sheriff for the past 16 years, our relationship has grown every year. Our DARE program. Young Marines Program, P.A.S.S.E.D. Program and citizen participation in the National Night Out Against Crime, where we have a minimum of 57 parties parishwide, are indicative of this support and cooperation. I am very proud to say that our National Night Out parties are considered some of the largest groups in our State. I will continue promoting our relationship with all community groups such as Senior Citizens, Veterans Home and schools.

MT: A trusting relationship with the community is definitely the key to catching criminals and solving crime. As you Sheriff, part of my platform is returning to the neighborhood. I will start a program where the officers in a patrol district must get out of their car and meet at least one person in their district weekly. During the brief visit, the officer will have the citizen complete a form with contact information. The citizen will keep a copy and a copy will be turned in to my office. I will randomly call some the citizens that have gotten a visit from an officer. I will inquire about the officer’s professionalism, courtesy, cleanliness of his uniform and his patrol car. If it is commonplace for an officer to stop by when citizens are sitting on a front porch or having a picnic in the backyard, and they know the citizens and the citizens know the officers by name, then it is easy to give the officer information about the “bad guys” hanging around the neighborhood. Whether an officer is “St. John Homegrown” or commuting from another parish, if you serve the people of St. John, then you must know the people of St. John. Just because an officer is not from St. John does not allow him to be the “anonymous officer” to the citizens.

What else would you like the voters to know?

WJ: I have worked extremely hard to build the Sheriffs Office we have today, from adding state of the art equipment and technology to extensive training of our personnel in all phases of Law Enforcement applications. I have raised my children in the parish, and my children are raising their families here. I will continue to work as hard as I can to ensure the safety of not only my family, but also every family in this parish. I will continue to make sure our parish is the safest in the state. I will also continue to run my office with dedicated and hardworking employees, all of whom I am proud of.

MT: St. John needs a new Sheriff with new ideas and new energy for fighting crime. My resume’ and experience as a deputy qualifies me to bring forth the new ideas to get our parish back to being a safe place. From the jail to the road, from undercover narcotics to the detective bureau, from administration to the DA’s office, I have worked in almost every department at SJSO over the past 23 years. I have directed traffic, lifted fingerprints, investigated homicides, testified in court, obtained convictions on homicide cases where I was the lead detective and represented this department with the utmost professionalism as spokesperson for more than 10 years. I am more than qualified to be your sheriff!