Neighborhood Watch techniques stem crime in Marcon Industrial Park

Cameras, lights help with security issues

LAFAYETTE — Since its beginning 30 years ago, the businesses located in Marcon Industrial Park sustained relentless thefts by nighttime thieves who could conceal themselves during moonless nights because the park had no outside lighting.

The park also had few video cameras, and none of the business managers really spoke to each other about crime except to lament a lost gas can, copper wiring that had gone missing or aluminum that got hauled off.

In 2012, Deputy Mike Thomas and Lt. Rudy Stelly, both with the Lafayette Sheriff’s Office Community Services Division, started talking about incorporating practices from neighborhood watch programs into a business park environment.

Stelly said Thomas attended some in-state and out-of-state seminars on neighborhood watch programs, then he had a eureka moment.

“He’s always thinking outside the box,” Stelly said. “We took bits and pieces of what was working in neighborhood watch and applied it to business. ... As soon as we implemented the watch, the crime went down.”

In January, Business Watch at Marcon Industrial Park was born when Thomas assembled the first meeting among the businesses. Business owners and employees now keep their ears opened and eyes peeled for possible thieves, and some businesses are plopping down the money for video cameras. The employees can communicate quickly via email and phone.

Catching thieves at night became a lot easier in mid-November when Entergy Gulf States Louisiana erected lights at the entrance of the park and along the main street. Stelly said some of the cost of the added lighting will be paid by the businesses. He said it’s a small fee that provides some insurance against thefts.

“The extra light helps with the videos,” said Floyd Dupre, one of two block captains in the park’s Business Watch organization. Dupre runs Lafayette Alarm Services.

Thomas, Stelly and Dupre said thefts at the industrial park have fallen drastically since the lights were installed and videos that could catch images of license plates and faces were switched on.

Angela Boudreaux, who shares the rank of block captain with Dupre and who manages Total Care, said she’s noticed there’s more awareness among the park’s employees when a stranger drives through or when someone nobody knows is hanging around.

Sheriff Mike Neustrom, who approved Thomas and Stelly’s Business Watch plan for Marcon, said other improvements are coming: improved landscaping so deputies can see more areas in the industrial park and connecting the park’s video cameras to his law enforcement database.

“This effort is a huge step toward providing better law enforcement services to this area, one that has been targeted in the past,” Neustrom said in mid-November, after Entergy installed the lights.

Neustrom said that early on investigators noted the lack of lights at the park, so the Community Services Division contacted Entergy Gulf States Louisiana.

“Now we can keep an eye out for all the businesses around us,” said Boudreaux.

The plans for 2014, Neustrom said, are to bring Business Watch to other industrial business clusters in the parish.