by Allen Powell II
New Orleans bureau
January 12, 2013
Gretna — Gretna police are reporting a double digit decrease in the city’s crime rate for 2012, and Police Chief Arthur Lawson said his department’s success is linked to the support of local politicians.
Lawson informed the Gretna City Council this week that five major crime categories tracked by the FBI were down 13 percent in 2012 compared to 2011. Those categories include homicides, rapes, assaults, robberies and burglaries. The city saw a small increase in thefts this past year.
“I’m certainly pleased and proud,” Lawson told the council.
The decrease coincides with a crime decrease recently reported by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, who saw crime decrease by nearly 5 percent in 2012, and homicides decrease by more than 30 percent. Gretna had no homicides in 2012 after having one in 2011.
Lawson was particularly gratified that the crime decrease came at the same time that Gretna police are handling an increasing number of calls for service from residents. Gretna police handled more than 44,000 calls for service in 2012 and saw a 10 percent increase compared to 2011.
With those increased calls for service has come a 12 percent increase in arrests, a 16 percent increase in citations issues, and a 19 percent increase in the use of Gretna’s emergency medical services, which are also run by police, according to police statistics. Lawson noted that getting crime to decrease while handling more calls is proof of the hard work of his officers and the assistance of city residents.
He noted that he encourages his officers to be proactive on patrol and seek out crimes instead of responding to dispatch calls. Gretna police use a beat system that Lawson believes creates a sense of ownership among officers where they feel invested in keeping crime low in the areas they patrol.
Having assigned beats also allows them to get to know residents and business owners more personally. “We have an aggressive patrol division. We don’t sit and wait for a call to come,” Lawson noted. “It becomes a sense of pride.”
But, Lawson noted none of that would be possible without the financial commitment from Gretna’s council.
They allow the Police Department to be fully staffed and flood the city’s streets with officers in a way that is not possible in some other jurisdictions. That allows Gretna to create a reputation that acts as a crime deterrent, just like having officers on the street.
“Word gets out that if you come here and do it, you stand a better chance of getting caught in the act,” Lawson said.