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2015 saw lowest crime rate in unincorporated Jefferson Parish in 41 years: JPSO

January 14, 2016

Unincorporated Jefferson Parish enjoyed a 5-percent drop in major crime in 2015 when compared to 2014, marking the lowest levels recorded in 41 years, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

"We're pleased to report that we have experienced the lowest crime rate year in Jefferson Parish since 1974," Sheriff Newell Normand announced Thursday afternoon.

It also the first year the Sheriff's Office recorded less than 14,000 crimes since 1974, when the department began tracking crime statistics. The figures, which are reported annually to the FBI, do not include the municipalities of Kenner, Harahan, Westwego, Gretna, Grand Isle and Jean Lafitte. Those have separate police departments and are not in JPSO's jurisdiction.

"We saw a decrease in every reported category with the exception of assault," Normand said.

Deputies responded to a total of 13,478 incidents in 2015, 12.5 percent of them violent crimes: murders, rapes, robberies and assaults.

The department saw a 36-percent drop in homicides with 27 murders reported last year. The tally includes the double shotgun slayings of Metairie father and son David and Nicholas Pence on April 23 and the June 10 death of Jasilas Wright, a young New Orleans mother run over multiple times on Interstate 10 in Metairie.

Detectives also investigated the deaths of three children under the age of 5. Pierre Stewart, 3, of Waggaman died March 18 at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, authorities have said. Liam Mata, 2, and Caden Mata, 5, were shot and killed along with their mother, Kelli Mata on Nov. 29, by their father, investigators said.

Sheriff's Office detectives arrested or identified suspects in 19 of the cases, Normand said.

Only assaults -- which include aggravated batteries such as shootings, stabbings or serious beatings – increased in 2015, up 11 percent.

Assaults are a hodgepodge of crimes that usually occur when people try to resolve conflict with gunplay, knives or their fists, Normand said. As with murders, assaults tend to involve people who know one another and are entangled in a way that's difficult for law enforcement to predict, prevent or control.

"We lost an officer last year because of a broken relationship, Normand said, referring the shooting death of Sgt. Tracey Marshall. Investigators arrested Marshall's former boyfriend, James Darby, and booked him with second-degree murder.

"There's no law enforcement strategy that was going to change that course," Normand said.

Property crime -- burglaries, thefts and auto thefts -- accounted for 68 percent of the incidents reported in Jefferson Parish and all saw decreases last year.

Normand said he can't credit any one strategy.

"It's not any one thing. Boots on the ground matter," the sheriff said. "We deploy technology in a meaningful way."

The Sheriff's Office has previously lauded its license-plate recognition cameras, the ShotSpotter system, the crime cameras mounted in neighborhoods as well as its CopLink criminal intelligence program for the department's successes.

"But good old fashioned grunt work, police work still matters," Normand said.

Poverty and drug addiction fuels quite a bit of the thefts in Jefferson Parish. They are thorny problems, and the programs devoted to eliminating them, such as mental health services, are often the first cut during a state budget crisis, Normand said.

To continue to drive down crime, the New Orleans region as a whole must work together and deal with the ills of society, the sheriff said.

"We're going to succeed or fail together," Normand said, referring to the effort fight crime in New Orleans and other nearby jurisdictions. "I'm not going to truly succeed at the end of the day if they don't succeed."