Homicides in Lafayette up, other crimes down

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft discusses crime statistics for the city of Lafayette at his office Thursday morning. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft discusses crime statistics for the city of Lafayette at his office Thursday morning.

The number of homicides in the city shot up last year while reported auto thefts, rapes and robberies decreased in 2012 compared with 2011, a study of crime statistics released by the Lafayette Police Department show.

The number of homicides doubled to 12 in 2012, while the number of reported rapes fell 27 percent to 11, according to numbers released Thursday by Police Chief Jim Craft.

Craft said the six homicides that occurred in Lafayette in 2011 were mostly drug-related.

In 2012 there were three homicides linked to drugs, with the rest attributable to other volatile situations, Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

“I was sorry to see it trend up,” Craft said.

One of the murders recorded in 2012 was that of Michaela “Mickey” Shunick, whose killer confessed to the crime after a months-long investigation.

“That was probably the most important and hardest case we’ve ever had,” Craft said.

The year-end tally looked at crime in seven categories: homicide; rape; robbery; assault; burglary; theft and auto theft.

From 2011 to 2012:

  • Homicides rose from six to 12.
  • Rapes fell from 15 to 11.
  • Robberies fell from 232 to 202.
  • Assaults fell from 2,365 to 2,306.
  • Burglaries rose from 1,194 to 1,330.
  • Thefts rose from 5,040 to 5,244.
  • Auto thefts fell from 277 to 241.

Overall crime in 2012 increased 2.4 percent from 2011, the numbers show.

However, a five-year look at crime offered a different perspective.

Homicides from 2008 to last year see-sawed each year, from 11 in 2008 to eight in 2009, from 12 in 2010 to six in 2011.

Rapes have dropped significantly, according to the department’s data, which show that 73 reported rapes in 2008 fell to 11 reported cases in 2012.

Jill Dugas, the executive director with Hearts of Hope in Lafayette, disputes the number of rapes reported by Lafayette police.

She said the number should be higher.

Hearts of Hope operates the Rape Crisis Center in Lafayette, which offers counseling to victims.

Dugas said Thursday afternoon that she had left a message with Craft about her concerns about the accuracy of the data on rapes.

Lafayette police distributed the crime statistics report to area news outlets on Thursday.

Craft said all precinct commanders have the authority, and responsibility, to deploy their resources to spots in the city where crime is occurring.

City police in the past two years started using “data-driven approaches” to tamp down crime in spots before it becomes rampant, Craft said.

The program is similar to the “Broken Windows” program, which was embraced and implemented by former New York City police Chief William Bratton to produce good results.

The program teaches police to have zero tolerance for those committing minor crimes before they go on to become major criminals.

Craft said the program in Lafayette employs some of the same principles. But to a stronger degree it collects data “in real time” so police captains can allot the personnel and equipment needed to quell a potential hot spot.

“Geographically, criminals like to operate in the same areas,” he said.

Mouton said that in 2012 almost nine in every 10 auto thefts — 87 percent — came after doors were left unlocked.