Sheriff’s candidates differ on if you feel safe

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish voters will decide Saturday who will lead the parish as sheriff going forward, and the election may come down to how safe the electorate feels.

Incumbent first-term Sheriff Mike Tregre is facing a run-off challenge Saturday from former deputy Michael Hoover after falling less than a percentage point from winning the race outright during October’s primary election.

In the election Oct. 24, Tregre finished with 7,280 votes (49.64 percent), followed by Hoover with 6,372 votes (43.45 percent.)

Fellow candidates Clifford Bailey (3.57 percent) and Samantha Burl Wilson (3.34 percent) failed to make an impression with voters.

“A change needs to happen for us to go in the right direction,” Hoover said. “There are three things that are required for a crime to happen. There is a victim, a perpetrator and an opportunity. The mistake that most law enforcement agencies make is they only attack one area. They attack the perpetrator, and they can’t succeed that way. We need to train the youth that there are better things out there then drugs and violence.”

The incumbent believes, in terms of feeling safe, many already do.

“Things were very quiet for the first half of the year,” Tregre said. “Unfortunately, things have picked up recently. It depends on who you speak to if they feel safe or they don’t feel safe. A majority of people that I speak to say they feel comfortable and safe.”

Hoover said the current Sheriff has fallen short in protecting St. John the Baptist Parish residents and believes there needs to be more proactive policing, more professionalism and more accountability.

“We need to team up with church groups for crime prevention,” he said.  “We need to work with youth programs. In my past, I have designed crime-prevention programs. The types of violent crimes are increasing in St. John the Baptist Parish. All those things that we see on the media everywhere else in the world is eventually going to try and make its way to St. John Parish, and we need to be ready.”

Hoover said a specially trained division is needed do deal with street crime concerns.

“For example, if there is a neighborhood that has more crime than others, those specialized units will be reassigned to that neighborhood,” Hoover said. “That way it would relieve the front line of patrol officers to do the jobs they need to do. When I say a proactive agency, what I’m talking about is a team that works specific hours and monitors specific areas. That’s what proactive policing is.”

Tregre is familiar with Hoover’s idea of a specialized unit and disagrees with the idea.

“One protective unit to protect St. John, really?” he said. “They have to go home. They have to go to sleep. I want every officer to be highly trained, highly skilled and highly motivated to do the job of a group of guys. All of our officers are trained to be professionally proactive, and they do a very good job. I give them tremendous credit.”

Hoover also believes the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office needs to exhibit more professionalism and accountability.

“Leadership, integrity and accountability are essential for a successful Sheriff’s Department,” Hoover said.

“The community deserves to see immediate results and not have to wait to see if promises are going to be kept.”

Tregre feels there is a sense of professionalism and accountability in his office, adding many residents comment to him how professional his officers are, even when officers pull them over.

“More professionalism? We have a very good department,” he said. “I try to get all of my officers to be as courteous, polite and professional as they can possibly be. A lot of people tell me my officers are awesome, even on traffic stops. We actually did a classroom training class on how to speak to people at traffic stops.”

Election day is Saturday, and St. John Parish Clerk of Court Eliana DeFrancesch said voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the general election.

— By Raquel Derganz Baker