118 vehicle burglaries from May through September
From May until September, there were 118 vehicle burglaries in St. Charles Parish, and while those crimes tend to peak in the summer, Sheriff Greg Champagne said that residents should still lock their vehicles and remove all valuables.
“This is probably the most preventable crime we have,” he said. “Though the crimes do sometimes jump in the summer, they fluctuate throughout the year so residents need to always make sure to lock their vehicles and keep all valuables out of the car.”
One of the reasons why vehicle burglaries increase most summers is because students are out of school, which means they have more time on their hands to roam neighborhoods looking for valuables. But Champagne said that it’s only a small number of kids that would consider committing such crimes.
“While over 99 percent of kids out of school for the summer are completely law abiding, a small unsupervised few have more opportunity to roam neighborhoods,” Champagne said.
This summer, the parish was hit particularly hard by car thieves, with a total of 40 car break-ins in July alone. That was the highest total in a single month since there were 45 break-ins in July of 2006.
“We have seen it in all areas, mostly in the middle to upper-middle class neighborhoods,” Champagne said. “The perpetrators are looking for an area where they can go to hit up several cars at one time.”
And that’s exactly what happened this summer.
In May, five vehicles in the Lakewood and Mimosa Park area were targeted. In that case, a witness reported a dark-colored vehicle following a person walking through the neighborhood. The thieves made off with cash and an iPod.
Four of the vehicles were unlocked at the time of the theft.
Two months after that incident, 11 auto burglaries were reported on July 12 on River Park Drive in Hahnville. Again, the thieves targeted unlocked vehicles and made away with pricey merchandise that included GPS units, a laptop, a camera, fishing supplies, a pair of binoculars and an Internet router. This string of break-ins caused Champagne to send out a parishwide e-mail alert warning citizens of the apparent trend.
The next week, three vehicles were burglarized on Rosedown in Destrehan and two vehicles were entered on Melrose. Most of the vehicles were unlocked.
Shortly after that, on July 22, alert neighbors on Riverview Drive in St. Rose noticed a 17-year-old male attempting to enter two vehicles. Deputies quickly arrived and arrested the suspect, Richard Leger.
Leger was charged with the attempted burglary of two vehicles and two counts of possession of stolen property.
Later in July, nine vehicles in the Willowdale, Willowridge and Lakewood Drive area were broken into. After an alert resident spotted two males leaving the scene of the crime, deputies quickly arrived and discovered a 1990 Lexus that was registered to an owner in Jefferson Parish. The woman who owned the vehicle said that it had been stolen from her home.
“In a lot of those cases, we were able to solve them and the number of vehicle burglaries dropped off after the arrests,” Champagne said. “We were never able to find out who stole the vehicle in Jefferson Parish, but after finding the vehicle, we didn’t have any major vehicle thefts in the West Bank. I think we scared them.”
Though the number of vehicle burglaries dropped from 40 to 27 from July to August and from 27 to 18 from August to September, they are still occurring.
Last month, two vehicles were burglarized in the 100 block of St. Nicholas Street. Valuables stolen from the vehicles included purses, credit cards and DVD players.
“That’s why I always warn people to lock their vehicles and remove valuables,” Champagne said. “I know that people are getting the message, because we would have more vehicle burglaries if a majority of the residents weren’t locking their cars, but it’s something everyone needs to do.
“That’s the only way we can stop these crimes and reduce crime overall in St. Charles Parish.”
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