The week leading up to the Destrehan vs. Hahnville high school football game is called Rivalry Week due to St. Charles Parish’s two high schools battling it out on the field. But this year the week leading up to the Nov. 20 game also pitted the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office against unruly, unsupervised teenagers.
Sheriff Greg Champagne called the most foolish behavior of the week the actions of numerous young people who, armed with paint ball guns and wearing black facemasks, pointed the guns out of the windows of vehicles and fired them at unsuspecting residents.
“Pointing what appears to be a real weapon out of a car window in the dark with a black face mask on is not a smart move,” Champagne said. “These instruments, including air soft pistols, cannot be distinguished from a real weapon in the dark of night. It is a foolish, stupid and possibly dangerous prank. Imagine an armed homeowner unaware of all the fun and frivolity of spirt week … imagine that he or she mistakes the shooter as a real criminal and decides their life might just be in danger. Just imagine the senseless tragedy we’ll all be talking about the next day if that occurs. “
St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. James Grimaldi said over 50 traffic stops, specifically related to Rivalry Week, were conducted in two nights.
“At least three narcotics-related arrests were made, at least three criminal mischief arrests were made and at least one contributing to the delinquency of a minor arrest was made,” he said. “Several paintball guns, packs of toilet paper, cartons of eggs, sacks of baking flour and other rivalry-related paraphernalia was taken.”
Grimaldi said many years ago Rivalry Week consisted of mostly harmless pranks, such as toilet papering opposing students’ homes, placing plastic forks into yards or using sidewalk chalk to decorate rivaling driveways.
“Occasionally, one rogue student would go overboard and commit more heinous acts, such as pouring diesel on the football field when the fields were still grass, or using weed killer on the levee to write their school’s name,” Grimaldi said. “Now it seems that the adolescents no longer keep the fun simple and harmless. Not saying all of the pranksters are bad, but many of the participants don’t realize how destructive their actions may be.”
Many young people stopped this year openly admitted that they were out to egg houses and cars, Grimaldi said.
“After explaining how egging damages vehicle paint and breaks house siding, they sincerely recognized their mistake,” he said. “We make every effort to be in full force on night one, in an effort to prevent the escalation of pranks.”
As a preventive measure, Grimaldi said every year the sheriff’s office attempts simple fixes to the Rivalry Week antics, such as having administrators at schools speak with their students about participating in harmful acts.
“We also ensure that our patrol division shifts have adequate staffing to ensure that they are able to provide sufficient patrols to neighborhoods,” he said. “If the Rivalry Week antics seem like they are above normal or getting out of hand, we will assign additional employees to peak times with the primary goal of stopping excessive pranks from occurring.”
Grimaldi said the main message to teenagers participating in the annual antics is to understand that although their actions may seem simple and harmless, someone is still responsible for the aftermath.
“Someone has to clean up that toilet paper and someone has to repair damage from eggs and paintball guns,” he said. “Responsible, respectful pranks are understandable and fun. When a parent of a Destrehan student has their home toilet papered from a Hahnville student, there is rarely ever any complaint made. But when a parent has to pay for repairs, or clean spray paint, or clean up after any other over the top prank, people get aggravated.”
Grimaldi said this year the sheriff’s office received many complaints from residents that have no children at either school, but were still targeted because of the side of the river they lived on.
“This is taking the Rivalry Week too far,” he said. “The message to parents isn’t just for DHS vs. HHS rivalry week, but a general message to parents – be involved in your child’s life. There is no reason your child should be leaving the house, especially at night, without their parent knowing what is going on.”
While some parents may believe this type of activity is a rite of passage, Grimaldi disagreed.
“You wouldn’t knowingly let your child leave the house to go shoplifting, would you?” he said. “You wouldn’t let your child leave the house to go drink and drive. You wouldn’t let your child leave the house to go commit other crimes, so why is vandalism ok? Spray painting driveways, egging cars and paintballing houses is a crime.”