Jefferson Parish sees continuing downward trend in crime

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and several of the parish’s municipal police departments reported earlier this year that 2012 featured some of the parish’s lowest crime rates in decades, and based on statistics from the first quarter of this year, that trend is continuing.

Several of the parish’s law enforcement agencies are reporting flat or dropping crime rates through the first three months of 2013, and even in those areas where crime has increased the total numbers remain small. The Sheriff’s Office and Kenner police have both seen crime decrease, while Gretna police have seen their numbers remain the same.

In Westwego and Harahan, the first quarter statistics show a moderate increase in reported crime, although the total numbers involved are fewer than a dozen crimes. New Orleans police have not released their crime statistics for the first quarter yet.

Col. John Fortunato, a sheriff’s spokesman, reported that overall crime dropped by slightly less than 1 percent so far this year, with 3,339 crimes reported from January to March, compared to 3,355 in 2012. The Sheriff’s Office has seen decreases in five of the seven categories tracked by the FBI, based on the statistics. Rapes, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts and assaults have all dropped, but homicides and thefts are up. A year after the Sheriff’s Office investigated 33 homicides total, 11 killings have been reported through March with several more reported in April.

Kenner police Chief Steve Caraway said his department built on 4 percent crime decrease last year with a 10 percent decrease during the first quarter through officer visibility and resident involvement. Kenner residents are calling the police more when they see things that appear unsavory, and that’s led to good arrests, he said.

Caraway mentioned a resident complaint about a man peering into vehicles that resulted in the arrest of someone connected to nine or 10 vehicle burglaries.

“We’re posting some decreases, and that’s always encouraging,” said Caraway, who cautioned that it’s still only the first quarter. “I think people are more suspicious, more vigilant, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Gretna Deputy Chief Anthony Christiana said police have used officer visibility and a rapid response time as a crime deterrent for years, and it’s working. Last year, Gretna saw crime decrease by 13 percent, and while the first quarter numbers are flat, that’s still a good thing, Christiana said.

“Everything has its curve to it,” he said. “Right now, we have a downward trend.”

In Westwego, a 9 percent increase is being driven by bumps in thefts in January and assaults in February and March. However, police made arrests in 91 percent of the assaults, and about 51 percent of its total crimes.

Harahan police reported a 15 percent increase in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 2012 with most of that spike driven by increases in thefts and burglaries. The city had 65 total crimes in the first quarter of 2012 and 75 so far this year.