Lafayette records summer spike in armed robberies

Lafayette experienced a spike in armed robberies during July. Although the actual numbers are relatively modest, the percentages are high, with the number of hold-ups involving weapons rising 71 percent compared with June and 50 percent compared with July 2013.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Lafayette usually experiences an increase in armed robberies during the summer, usually of convenience stores.

According to city police statistics, there were 24 instances in July when one or more armed robbers entered businesses — mostly convenience stores — and demanded cash before fleeing. That compares with 14 in June and 16 in July 2013.

“Generally, about once a year we experience a rash of convenience store robberies,” Craft said.

Of the 24 crimes in July, one resulted in an arrest, 10 remain under investigation or remain open, and 13 have been suspended. Craft said the “suspended” category is for cases that have exhausted their leads.

City police Cpl. Paul Mouton said many suspended cases often are solved later, after the criminals responsible for earlier robberies are caught doing it again at another location.

“Usually, we end up catching them eventually,” Mouton said.

Craft said it’s common to discover one or two people have been committing the bulk of the armed robberies.

Most armed robberies in July occurred in stores clustered along Evangeline Thruway or located within a mile of the thoroughfare.

One convenience store, a Shell station on West Gloria Switch Road just off the Thruway north of Interstate 10, got hit twice in the span of about a week — July 21 and July 29. Both times the robberies occurred between midnight and 4:30 a.m. Neither holdup has been solved.

Another armed holdup — perpetrated by a man wearing a wig for disguise — involved the IberiaBank branch in the 1000 block of Johnston Street on July 25 just after 9 a.m. Mouton said detectives continue to work leads in the case.

Armed robbery numbers for 2014 through July show about one in every three have been solved. City merchants have been hit 97 times through seven months. Thirty-one cases have been cleared, 17 remain under investigation or are open, and 49 have been suspended, according to department-provided numbers.

Mouton said good surveillance cameras that some store owners have installed helped catch those responsible. Some stores have reduced chances of a hold up by closing their doors during the wee hours of the morning or have installed window-only service.

Other deterrents include Lafayette police officers who park in convenience store lots to catch up on report writing, thwarting a robbery before it occurs. And officers getting out of their cars and conversing with store clerks who work the night shift also helps, Lafayette police Cpl. Nicole Benoit said.

“We encourage our officers to drop in at the stores,” Benoit said.