25 state troopers per month patrol parish
Louisiana State Police’s LACE program is aimed at improving highway safety, but the program’s recent suspension doesn’t appear to have had a drastic affect on the number of automobile accidents reported in St. Charles Parish.
The program recently resumed Monday following a three-month investigation after four troopers were accused of abusing overtime and regular pay. Ticket numbers plummeted by 1,400 a month on average during the program’s suspension, but crash numbers in St. Charles show level effect in a three-year comparative.
Highway crashes in the parish investigated by State Police last year totaled 96 in the period from Nov. 8 to Jan. 31 of 2017-18, which is the same time that LACE (Local Agency Compensated Enforcement) was suspended statewide for investigation. The year prior in the same period, the parish had 95 crashes compared to 103 during that same period in 2015-16.
State Police spokeswoman Melissa Matey said the numbers represent only a sampling into the program’s effectiveness.
For example, most roads were closed in the parish for nearly three days in January due to icy conditions.
“LACE is very effective in keeping our highways safe,” Matey said. “The main goal for LSP is public safety on our highways and that’s what we’re mandated to do by law and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. We work with law enforcement entities to ensure those highways stay safe because every single year too many people are killed on the highways.”
Not only does the LSP stand by the program’s effectiveness, it has announced that new Dodge Chargers – marked, ghost and unmarked – are being added to the fleet to beef up patrols.
St. Charles Parish DA Joel Chaisson has remained a staunch supporter of LACE, emphasizing its importance for safer highways.
For Chaisson’s office, LACE put 25 troopers on I-310, U.S. Highway 90, Airline Highway and I-10 on average per month last year, according to Matey.
Matey said the DA’s office was billed $459,601 last year in trooper overtime. Troopers worked 7,491 hours in that time, which resulted in 15,428 citations. She said there were additional costs associated with the LACE program, such as administration fees, dispatch fees, fuel costs and Medicare costs.
Chaisson welcomed the program safeguards to improve and particularly to address what he believed were a few isolated incidents that caused problems.
Last Monday, LACE resumed with additional steps taken for accountability, including a 48-hour cap on overtime worked in a pay period, work only allowed in four-hour blocks at a time along with having to file paperwork at the end of each shift. Also, a trooper must confirm the parish where the LACE shift is worked and finish it in the same parish, as well as return home on their time.
While no study has been done on LACE’s effectiveness in Louisiana, Matey maintained the program is keeping highways safer.
The most recent assessment of the program came with ticket numbers, which plummeted during the program’s suspension.