CrimeTracker Investigation: St. Tammany Parish burglaries

CrimeTracker Investigation: St. Tammany Parish burglaries

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - It's video that made national headlines.

Late night shows couldn't help but poke fun at a guy dressed in camo, wearing gloves and a bucket on his head as he burglarized Kenny's Seafood in Slidell back in 2013. Since then, no other burglary in St. Tammany Parish has gotten quite as much attention.

Still, it's happening across the northshore and affecting people in neighborhoods you might not expect.

"For most of our residents, they'll never be impacted by a crime, but when your privacy is invaded by an individual, we're left many times to imagine what if I would have walked in and that individual been there? Even worse, what if my wife and children would have walked in and that individual was still in the home?" Sheriff Jack Strain said.

In this CrimeTracker Investigation, FOX 8 obtained the incident report numbers, time of day and location for every burglary in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish from last year.

We've also obtained the same information for some of the incorporated areas, including Slidell, Mandeville and Covington.

"Generally when you see burglaries in St. Tammany Parish, they're the result of leaving their doors unlocked or leaving windows open on their homes," Strain said.

Oftentimes, Strain said the same burglar will strike again and again until they're caught. That's exactly what detectives say happened back in June of last year, when the same five burglars are accused of targeting more than six dozen cars and four businesses.

"It gives you goose bumps when you walk in. It feels like you've been violated. We pulled in and opened the door and there were knives laying all over. There was also a hole punched in the wall," said business owner Craig Young.

Young, of Young's Steakhouse in Slidell, became one of the victims when burglars found a unique and damaging way to break-in.

"This is where they went through. It's only about 8 to 10 inches wide to about 12 to 14 inches long. It had to be a small guy," Young said.

First entering through the ventilation system, Young said a burglar then punched a hole in the wall and climbed through it to unlock the door so that others could get inside. Of the 77 burglaries they're accused of committing, Quail Creek near Mandeville Middle School was one of 15 subdivisions targeted.

"There's a lot of teenagers who hang out around here, but I can't believe they broke into 77. That's kind of a lot," said Allen Johnston.

Detectives says the burglars didn't even have to work hard to break into the cars. Each one was simply unlocked.

Strain said in most cases, vehicles burglaries are crimes of opportunity.

"So, before any of that happens, let's take the first steps and lock our doors and remove these valuable items from our automobiles," he said.

Of the 447 home burglaries in St. Tammany Parish, three of them happened in the Beau Chene neighborhood, where some of the area is behind gates with private security.

"Many of our residents work during the day and are at home at night. That makes them a target in the daytime, so that's why we have to make sure we double our efforts to get the deputies into those communities," Strain said.

In Mandeville's city limits, police investigated not one but four incidents within a month's time at Steve Sperier's bike shop, the Spokesman.

"I got a call from the Mandeville Police at six in the morning saying the window is broken," Sperier said.

Sperier found the window bashed in and the cash register stolen.

"The most he could have gotten was $7.20, so he smashed my window which was $400 for that. He came in, took the change drawer, which was 65 bucks, so $465 to steal 7 dollars and 20 cents," Sperier said.

Despite the frustration and all of the money Sperier spent on repairing his place, he says he's glad to know the burglar's been caught.

There were 10 other business burglaries last year in Mandeville's city limits. Covington Police investigated nine business burglaries and 30 residential burglaries.

"I was in bed, and I heard something tapping on my window," said Tommie Keys.

Keys said a burglar tried to steal her air conditioner last year, and when police caught him, she learned it was the same guy responsible for a burglary on W. 28th Street.

In the city limits of Covington, the most burglaries occurred along S. Jancke Avenue. Of the 11 incidents, nine of them were car burglaries.

"It can happen anywhere. A lot of times, the subdivisions here in Slidell that were targeted are nicer subdivisions," Police Chief Randy Smith said.

In Slidell, this neighborhood on Spartan Loop and Spartan Drive became a target for car burglaries - 13 vehicles were hit in one night.

"Again, it's a crime of opportunity. They were hitting vehicles that were left unlocked, and their primary target were items of value, which were guns, computers, and laptops," Smith said.

Smith said a combination of surveillance videos and vigilant residents are helping officers solve these cases. With nearly 300 incidents in 2014, Smith says the criminals are often drug addicts committing these crimes to feed their habits.

"Most of the arrests that we make dealing with burglaries in Slidell, the common denominators for these break-ins are usually drugs," Smith said.

Across unincorporated St. Tammany Parish and the cities of Slidell, Mandeville and Covington, there were 1,441 burglaries in all of last year.

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