Increase in armed robberies has Lafayette police on alert

All hands called in by chief to fight back

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft issued an all-hands-on-deck order to his officers and others this week to combat a rash of armed robberies in the Hub City.

“We’ve tried to increase our presence in the areas where they’ve been hitting,” Craft said. “We’re staying close to our convenience stores and our banks.”

Since mid-November, there have been three bank robberies, two by thieves who were armed, and more than 20 armed holdups of convenience stores and individuals, including incidents of carjacking. There also was a unexplained shooting on Kaliste Saloom Road that wounded a driver who had a 5-year-old passenger in the rear seat of his vehicle, according to department information.

The contrast to last year is stark. In the period from mid-November to mid-December 2012, there were five armed robberies in Lafayette compared with more than 20 this season.

Craft said off-duty patrol officers and detectives have been called in, and police have arrested or identified suspects in over half the hold-ups this year.

“We’ve had our entire detective section working these cases,” Craft said.

One of the latest arrests came Thursday night and involved a car-jacking that occurred Wednesday night in the 100 block of Amy Street. The suspect, David Fontenot, allegedly offered money for a ride from two women in a car near the Evangeline Thruway.

As the car traveled on Amy Street, Fontenot allegedly told the victims to “get out of the car or he would shoot them,” then he stole their 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier, Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

Police in a K-9 unit pulled Fontenot, of Lafayette, over Thursday night on Irene Street. He was driving the same Cavalier, Mouton said in a release, that had been stolen from the women.

Fontenot’s arrest Thursday was the second made that day in recent armed robberies in Lafayette.

Detectives also identified a man wanted for grabbing cash from a Teche Federal Savings drawer Dec. 3, issuing an arrest warrant for Nikita Valdmire Eremine. Eremine, who might have caught a bus to Lake Charles after the unarmed heist, remained at large Friday.

Craft said his department is receiving help from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, and agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The increase of crimes in Lafayette has spurred the police chief in neighbor Broussard to place extra patrol officers in and near shopping centers and banks.

On Dec. 6, Chief Brannon Decou started requiring his officers to saturate the heavily visited areas of commerce, and reinstituted a program he began during the holiday season of 2012 that placed a police officer in all credit unions and banks in Broussard.

Craft said he had no answer to why Christmas 2013 has seen more crime.