Parish crime hits 20-year low

St. Charles Parish’s crime rate hit a 20-year low in 2016, dropping by 13 percent from the previous year, said Sheriff Greg Champagne.

Some 1,552 crimes were reported last year, down from a total of 1,786 in 2015. The drop came in five of the  seven major crime categories, which include murder, robbery, rape, assaults, auto theft, burglary and theft.

Champagne said the numbers indicate the past three years have been the three best in terms of low crime numbers during that span, a notable trend from years prior; the low mark from 1998-2013 was 2,094 in 2008, but the total number in the years 2014-16 were 1,777, 1,786 and 1,552, respectively.

“We’re not trying to stand up here to tell you we’re crime free, but we’re certainly moving in a very, very positive direction,” Champagne said.

The sheriff credited a number of factors for the low rate, and said he believes the recent numbers are the overall result of years of developing infrastructure to deter crime.

He commended the deputies, detectives and support staff for their work in making it possible, while also noting strong cooperation with District Attorney Joel Chaisson’s office and the willingness of the public to share information though methods like social media as other contributors.

“It’s a battle that has to be fought on multiple fronts,” Champagne said. “Over years of time, you develop strategies, engage the community, and the result is an overall reduction in crime rate.”

The individual numbers point to drops from 2015 to 2016 in the number of reported rape cases (from 10 to four); auto thefts (73 to 37); burglaries (235 to 188) thefts (778-613) and murders (4 to 3).

There were increases in the number of robberies (23 to 24) and assaults (663 to 683).

Champagne gave a special nod to Chaisson, whose tenure as District Attorney spanned the now three-year span of lower crime numbers. Chaisson became St. Charles Parish’s District Attorney in June of 2012.

“There’s a great level of communication (between the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s office),” Champagne said. “One thing I asked him … I said I won’t call you every day, but if have a criminal, habitual offender that needs to be put away, I’m going to reach out. And he responds.

“In a parish with a relatively low number of people, a few repeat offenders can make a big difference relative to overall crime … to prosecute them vigorously and fairly, get the evidence, make the case and give them the jail time they’re due, it’s a big factor over the past 20 years and has really taken off with Mr. Chaisson.”

The Sheriff also indicated that the old cliche that success breeds more success is also true: when the number of crimes drop, there comes an ability to focus more resources on responding to those that do happen.

“A couple of weeks ago, we investigated a homicide here and we were able to put 30 detectives on the case,” Champagne said. “When you have less crime, you gain the ability to do that.”


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