Crime up in St. John in 2011
Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2012
By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE – For the first time in four years, St. John the Baptist Parish experienced an overall increase in reported crime in 2011, according to statistics released by St. John Sheriff Wayne Jones Thursday.
Jones said reported crimes were up by about 3 percent in 2011. The data showed the parish experienced increases in assaults, burglaries and theft but also showed decreases in forcible rapes, robbery and motor vehicle theft. St. John’s homicide rate remained the same in 2011.
“I certainly wish we had been down in homicides, but at least there was no increase,” Jones said. “Other violent crimes are down, and that is encouraging.”
Forcible rape dropped 50 percent, from six in 2010 to three in 2011. Robberies were down about 4 percent, dropping from 45 to 43. The one violent crime category that did show an increase was assaults, which were up 11 percent in 2011. Jones added that assaults often include more than just physical altercations.
“Some of those are simply verbal altercations,” Jones said. “Arrests for assault are often reduced to lesser charges when the cases go to court.”
Jones said the increases in burglary, up nearly 2 percent, and larceny-theft, up more than 6 percent, can often be attributed to incidents where homes or vehicles are unlocked during the day or over night. He said there are often increase in the summer, when young people are out of school and unsupervised.
“There are incidents where young people will walk down a street and check every car on a block, and if a car is unlocked they are getting into it,” Jones said. “One thing I always say is to lock your cars. It is a different society now and you need to secure your belongings when you go to bed at night.”
Despite the increase in 2011, Jones noted that overall crime has come down more than 14 percent since 2009. He said more officers are addressing defined areas of concern in the parish and there is more of a police presence in what he calls “crime hot spots.”
“There are eight areas of the parish mapped out based on where arrests are made and where calls are coming from,” Jones said. “Deputies are present in those areas hitting bars to make sure they close on time and dispersing crowds that get rowdy. We are maintaining a good handle on the situation.”
Jones said he was still most discouraged by the unchanged murder rate from 2010 to 2011. In both years, the parish had six murders. Jones said although the Sheriff’s Office has been more proactive in using the Felony Intercept Unit and other patrol officers, he believes the only way to foster a decrease in homicides is with collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office, the school system, churches and local leaders.
“We need to talk about it realistically,” Jones said. “I think there is special concern over the amount of juvenile crime, as well as the amount of black-on-black crime.”
Of the six men murdered in St. John in 2011, five were black men between the ages of 21 and 42. Those arrested in five of the six murders were black men between the ages of 17 and 37 at the time of arrest. There have already been three murders in 2012. Two of the victims were 23-year-old black men and the other a 32-year-old black man.
Jones said part of the solution could be the creation of a strong mentoring program in the parish in which young boys of 7 or 8 years old could be paired with older male role models.
“We need to find people with the time and the means to do it,” Jones said. “A positive adult role model in a young person’s life is critical. If you get them at an early age and break the cycle then you can start to see a change. Young children at that age are craving attention and love, and if they do not get it they grow up cold and hard.”