CrimeTracker Investigation: St. Charles Parish crime

CrimeTracker Investigation: St. Charles Parish crime

ST. CHARLES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - "My sister-in-law had to come down and throw something in the trash can. She noticed a big empty spot in our garage," says Erin Zapata.

A brazen burglar strikes in the middle of the night with a house full of people in a normally quiet Luling neighborhood.

"They entered one of the cars and used the garage opener to come in and get the four-wheeler," says Zapata.

Even with four-wheeler stolen, Erin Zapata knows it could have been much worse.

"The door that leads to the house was unlocked. The door that leads from the garage to the inside of the house was unlocked, and they could have easily come in here," says Zapata.

Zapata says she never expected anything like that to happen in her neighborhood, but in fact, burglars struck 33 times in Luling last year. In this CrimeTracker Investigation, FOX 8 obtained the incident report numbers, dates, times and locations for every armed robbery and burglary in St. Charles Parish last year.

Our map shows the incidents. Yellow dots represent burglaries, while red dots represent armed robberies.

"Crime, for the most part, is everywhere. It happens in country clubs. It happens in the projects. We tend to see it in more lower social economical neighborhoods. That's just a fact," says Sheriff Greg Champagne.

When it comes to burglaries, there were 192 incidents across St. Charles in 2014. Most happened in St. Rose, with 34, and Luling, with 33 burglaries.

"Your typical thief does not want to be seen. He wants to get in and get out, so they're generally not confrontational. They don't want to be identified," says Champagne.

Champagne points out that there are no municipalities in the parish. He says towns like Luling are large and have rural communities throughout.

Burglars struck 33 times in Destrahan. Several incidents happened in the Ormond Estates neighborhood, and three of them happened in the Ormond Country Club subdivision.

"Ormond has some of the neighborhoods that is up against woods and canals. It's where someone could sneak around, down the canal and out of sight to do it," Champagne says.

Residential burglaries happen far more often than business burglaries. Homes were targeted 102 times, compared to 21 businesses. Burglary victims though, like Zapata, say they're doing things much different since it happened.

"Not only do I lock the doors, but I have a chair under the door handle at night when we got to bed. It's something I think about a lot," says Zapata.

Armed robberies are not common in St. Charles, but they do happen.

"Armed robbery is probably one of the most dangerous crimes," Champagne says.

Thirteen armed robberies occurred in 2014, eight of them in Luling.

"We don't have traditional armed robberies, like most would think, where a person goes in and holds up a bank teller or a convenience store clerk. We used to see that 20 years ago, but we don't see that now. Why? It's because business owners have surveillance cameras," Champagne says.

Champagne says surveillance cameras deter criminals in the parish, and when they're caught on camera, he uses social media to help identify them.

"Facebook has overtaken traditional email alerts, it really has. And so we use it a lot. We've caught fugitives through social media," Champagne says.

With more than 100 burglaries and more than a dozen armed robberies in St. Charles Parish, the sheriff wants to stress that no one should let their guard down. Still, he says crime in St. Charles Parish is actually down, and the lowest it's been in 20 years.

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