Kenner police chief reports crime rate decreased

After a fairly substantial increase in crime in 2011, Kenner police report that crime is trending in the right direction with a moderate decrease in overall crime in 2012.

Police Chief Steve Caraway said he was pleased to report that crime dropped about 4 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Police handled 2,649 homicides, assaults, rapes, robberies, burglaries, thefts and auto thefts in 2012 compared with 2,764 in 2011.

“This is probably the largest decrease we’ve seen in several years,” Caraway said. “I think it’s a combination of things obviously.”

The biggest drop was in homicides, although even in a busy year the city rarely cracks double digits in that category.

In 2011, Kenner police investigated nine homicides but only handled two homicides in 2012.

Like most law enforcement officers, Caraway prefers not to take much credit when homicides fall because changes are often independent of policing, but he said it’s still good news.

“I think it’s just one of those years where things happened to be better,” Caraway said. “We’re fortunate that we saw a decrease.”

Caraway credited the overall drop to the hard work of his officers but also to the increased vigilance of the city’s residents.

He said that in the past, residents might have hesitated to contact police about seemingly minor activity in their neighborhoods, but now they are aggressive about making calls.

Police have increased their crime prevention outreach, and it’s paying dividends, he said, although too many residents still leave their car doors unlocked.

More than 90 percent of vehicle burglaries involve unlocked cars, he said.

“I think people are tired of being victims of crimes. … We encourage people to call the police regardless of how insignificant it may seem,” Caraway said.

“We rely on alert citizens to notify us when they see something out of the ordinary.”

Like many law enforcement agencies in the metropolitan area, Kenner has posted the crime decrease despite staffing levels that are not optimal.

Caraway said his department has about 160 officers now, down from 187 officers six years ago.

However, Caraway said he’s tried to be creative about getting more officers on the streets, noting that Kenner police now use civilians as crime scene technicians to free up police officers from that duty.

Higher staffing typically leads to higher visibility, which is often a great deterrent with property crimes.

Caraway said he pushes his officers to be seen in the city’s streets and to be aggressive about challenging people who seem out of the ordinary.

Staffing could be higher, Caraway said, but the police will work with what they have.

“I don’t see it becoming more of an issue,” Caraway said.