Tri-Parish Sheriffs Forum spotlights regional collaboration

Published 8:29 am Saturday, November 26, 2022

DESTREHAN — When it comes to training opportunities or addressing issues that span the River Parishes, the three sheriffs of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James work together seamlessly to promote public safety.

Those strong partnerships were on full display as the River Region Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a Tri-Parish Sheriffs Forum at Cloud9 Restaurant and Bar in Destrehan.

Moderated by River Region Chamber Policy Chairman and board member Bub Millet, the forum featured discussion topics including wish lists of support and resources, the process of recruiting new employees, and challenges in a post-COVID world, especially as it relates to the changing economy and growing concern over mass shootings across the nation.

St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre had just been sworn into his first term in office in summer 2012 when two deputies lost their lives in a violent ambush.

“My department became more mentally prepared and better trained from that incident,” Tregre said. “The thing is, you can’t train for just one type of mass event. A lot of times, citizens are there (on scene) before we are there. I have sent officers to schools, and we have taught members of the clergy ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of survival should there be an incident at the church.”

While members of the community expressed concerns over an increase in crime moving in from New Orleans, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said the SCSO actually experienced a 30-year record low of crime during 2021.

“We have seen some incidents perpetrated by out of parish residents increase, but not to an overwhelming level here in St. Charles,” Champagne said. “We had one carjacking months ago, and apprehended the perpetrator within two hours. Most of the ‘out of parish’ crime perpetrated involves automobile burglaries and stolen automobiles we believe perpetrated by a crime ring in East New Orleans.”

Whenever police believe criminal activity has increased, patrols are intensified, particularly at night and in areas where activity seems highest.

Champagne added, “While crime has remained relatively low in St. Charles, the rising cycle of violence and retaliation among young men in our area by the of drive by shootings is concerning for all of us. We really need family members and clergy to assist with this growing problem.”

Tregre would like to see more community involvement from St. John Parish residents, and his “wish list” for his department includes incentivizing more locals to apply to work at the SJSO.

“I’ve done career days, flyers, commercials. I have a lot of outside the parish interest. I wish more people from St. John would apply,” Tregre said.

Tregre also wishes there were fewer traffic incidents. Speeding complaints and accidents consume a lot of time and manpower on a daily basis, particularly on I-55, I-10, Airline Highway, 3127 and even River Road.

“I wish we would start up the conversation again regarding the Interstate interchange that was first proposed more than a decade ago,” Tregre said. “Having an interchange from West 10th to I-10 would greatly alleviate traffic in LaPlace.”

During the forum, a representative of the Port of South Louisiana said the interchange is one of the projects expected to come to fruition as executive director Paul Matthews plans infrastructure improvements across the River Region.

On the topic of taking a regional approach to law enforcement, Tregre said the SJSO has for many years utilized training facilities in St. Charles and St. James. Now that the Lyndon B. Johnson Law Training Center is complete in LaPlace, he has a chance to reciprocate.

“When it’s time to work together, it happens seamlessly,” he said. “We want the citizens to know that and, more importantly, we want the criminals to know that. I think that was on full display with our forum.”

Champagne agreed, stating, “I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the business leaders. However, all three of us (sheriffs) in the River Parishes speak very frequently and have been working together for a long time if any issues arise which appear to cross parish lines.”

The River Region Chamber of Commerce extended sympathies to St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Jr., who could not be in attendance due to a personal matter.

Sponsors of the Tri-Parish Sheriff’s Forum included Dow, Shell, Port of South Louisiana, Nucor, Denka, Entergy, First American Bank, Louisiana’s River Parishes Tourist Commission, Ochsner Medical Center/Kenner and St. Charles Parish Hospital.