With unemployment – and in many cases uncertainty – on the rise nationally, locally something of extreme importance is remaining low – the crime rate in St. Charles Parish.
In 2019 St. Charles Parish experienced the lowest crime rate in at least 25 years, and St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said so far in 2020, the crime rate remains on a downward trajectory.
Crime numbers during the first quarter of 2019 were 360, while crime numbers during the first quarter of this year fell by 22 to 338.
“Currently, it appears that our citizens overall have realized the severity of the COVID-19 emergency and appear to be acting responsibly,” Champagne said. “In a couple of situations, we have arrested individuals for violating the stay-at-home orders.”
In one situation, the sheriff said, individuals were attempting to hold a large public event with over 30 people and began to incite others when deputies repeatedly asked them to end the function. Champagne said the arrests of the organizers were necessary for the safety of all.
“In another case, we were dealing with possible thefts in the Des Allemands area and came across a resident of another parish on a bicycle who had no valid reason to be on the streets late and admitted he knew he was violating the order,” Champagne said. “These were just a couple of isolated incidents … we want to respect everyone’s freedom and will only exercise this authority in potentially dangerous situations where there is no other option.”
Champagne said he encourages all residents to continue to comply with the Governor John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order.
“We continue to receive calls from citizens about others having parties with several people,” he said. “The governor’s order prohibits more than 10 … if we do come across this, we attempt to ask the residents to comply …we just ask citizens to be courteous towards their neighbors … the length of this stay at home situation is beginning to wear on people and we find some getting stressed out especially if they have become unemployed … we are hopeful that we can return to some degree of normalcy soon.”
Although overall crime is continuing at a very low rate, Champagne said there has been a small increase in domestic violence and fighting calls.
“This is expected when some people feel frustrated being stuck at home,” he said. “Most, however, are making the best of it.”
The pre-trial jail population is lower than it has been in over 20 years, Champagne said, but added he is concerned about that growing should the emergency continue and unemployment numbers keep rising.
No parish curfew for adults has been established, Champagne said, adding the juvenile curfew remains at 10 p.m.
“When the topic of curfews for everyone came up due to the virus, it was determined that in St. Charles Parish, we were not having many problems with people being out at night, so it was determined that a curfew is not necessary,” he said.
As is common during school breaks and summertime, Champagne said many young people have utilized their time out of school by recreationally riding on golf carts, four-wheelers, ATVs and other related vehicles.
“Golf carts are permitted on parish roadways only if the cart meets all safety specifications and the owner has a driver’s license and proof of liability insurance,” Champagne said as a reminder. “We urge our responsible citizens, family members, and parents to explain the dangers of riding these unregistered and often non-street legal vehicles on roadways … these vehicles often do not have insurance or proper equipment necessary to be street legal.
Additionally, Champagne said, young people will often trespass with these vehicles on private property, which sometimes causes property damage and is a nuisance to the neighboring public. He said several ATVS have been towed and the owners cited since the pandemic began.
“I want to personally thank our citizens who have acted responsibly, maintained their composure and followed recommendations such as social distancing,” Champagne said. “Throughout this pandemic, there have been countless stories of individuals as well as communities stepping up and doing things to help … these things not only help boost the morale of the frontline fighters of this pandemic, but it also shows the goodness of humanity.”