WWL>Topics>>11-4 2:10pm Angela speaks with Greg Champagne

11-4 2:10pm Angela speaks with Greg Champagne

Nov 4, 2013|

CRIME SCENE—we spotlight St. Charles Parish with Sheriff Greg Champagne…where the big issues are property crimes and crimes of opportunity.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Bulletin says that there may be more alligators in saint Charles parish than people. But if you've ever driven through you know that's probably not the case it's an almost idyllic community of people who live and a strong industrial economy. And at the same time a small paradise. But as in all communities -- fights crime. Perhaps nowhere near the volume of more urban areas. But the sheriff there is justice committed to a safe community as any in our area. Sheriff Greg -- pollen is our guest today for our weekly law enforcement update and I'm delighted to become all over here and tell us a little bit about saint Charles parish. I was very surprised I did not know that you had been a prosecutor. Before you became sheriff a little over seventeen years ago. Wolf first Angela thank you for having us and I look forward to being able to provide some information more than we went we do to provide a lot now but. But but as much as we can to our public and our guests -- in my career as an assistant district attorney 1982 for almost fourteen years -- Was elected sheriff 95 took office in 96. The same time as your last guest guest sheriff Jack strain yes saint -- we came in together and we're good friends what to what motivated Judas I am gonna give up. This part of the law and take up. -- -- My whole career now 3031. Years has been. Really I -- a few fighting crime and it's it's it's always been a passion of mine. Com take a take crime personally. And -- life I feel the constant sense of responsibility. And accountability. To our public. To keep them as safe as possible keep him personally safe and also keep their property. As safe as possible so I take it as a personal on. A charge and and it's it's a 24 hour day of conservatives. And he can't but release that if you tried to just always there with you so it's. It's my lifestyle now thinking about waking up thinking about it. If we do you as prosecutor. You would certainly had some dealings with the sheriff's office but once you've -- it and what surprised you. Well you know nothing written nothing really surprise me and -- weekly you know I knew pretty much stood. The situation in the parish with a level of crime was which -- relatively low speaking but we're not immune from crime. -- so there was really there really no big surprises it was just a whole lot more responsibility suddenly it's supposed to handling a few your caseload then now handling. Every once caseload. And and and the one from the the prosecution side to the law enforcement side there's a whole. It's a whole different audience that -- -- from you know as a prosecutor you generally deal with the defense attorneys and the and the people who come in looking for a break -- deal. As sheriff you're hearing much more from the people who were saying hey what you can do about the -- -- around what do you do about the speeders what do you do about the drug dealers etc. -- so yeah it's -- it's a it's it's a larger picture. A lot more about that I really enjoyed it you know not to say that every day has been. Of the barrel of monkeys -- -- -- -- it's it's it's it's gratifying and -- a lot of responsibility and there are -- up and down days and but I enjoyed much more than that few negative days that we have. As prosecutor and I'm not saying this for saint Charles but I've heard over the years in Orleans has always been a frustration. With in the DA's office are the police writing the reports out correctly so that they can prosecute correctly. Did you bring to the table when you became sheriff perhaps working on to make sure that those reports were up more than adequate. Well -- glad you asked that that's exactly one of the first things I did because you know as a prosecutor I was looking at reading all the reports that all the deputies had written that that they right. You know for cases and so. I knew I knew with the work product was there and so I was able to go in and and it was a good product and but -- there's always room for improvement so we have I have really want I would say of everything we have emphasize training more than anything else. I'm proud to say -- right now I have on the drawing board a new training academy right next our headquarters where. We already have a post academy where we teach the offices of the basic of the basic training. Eleven -- but we're gonna actually have a building now instead of middle school house. Which we appreciate it and people can have a new building next to headquarters -- will be doing. Our training and it's just something that we emphasize in our business there's always a need for training warn warned all different aspects of law enforcement. How big is -- force. We have total employees or about 380. Saint Charles is one of five parishes in Louisiana that does not have any city police departments or any municipal police department. So we are yet other than maybe the state police coming on highway driving and speeding tickets and investigating some accidents. We have we're a full service law enforcement agency probably about the tenth largest sheriff's office in the state. With three and eighty employees and any clues about a 130 employees and our correctional center. In Cologne you know in which we hold both local some state and some federal in me. -- and I wanna talk about that in a minute and more back to two. US. Did you change any of the criteria. To be. And did you -- the standards. We did we do just about every type of testing for pre employment that you can now we start off with -- you know basic interview. We naturally have to have high school diploma no felony record. But we go through to full battery now. Most of testing psychological testing on drug testing complete background checks. Polygraph. So we do pretty much everything to where we can be as reasonably certain as possible. That the employees were getting or -- Or fit for the job on that you know they're they're capable of doing the job. And they have the right mental state to be able to perform these duties. Constitutionally. And where appropriate. Empathy and sympathy for public -- that part is it's tough town. It is tough. It it's difficult for any law enforcement officer because. Every day they tend to be dealing with for the most sports some of the more on negative aspects of our society. Serious automobile accidents they're dealing with that you know the drug dealers and child molesters all the people that commit. Crimes for the most -- not to say we don't have interaction with on the citizens we do. But they they they they day in and day out really see the negative. Our in our society. And it's sometimes a challenge for us to be able to maintain a positive attitude to not be convinced that you know -- everybody's a bad guy you know their. The vast vast majority of people you know 90% or are good guys are good people and so that's the thing you we -- exposed to so much negative. But we have to come on stage. Focus that those are the real small minority of every. It's our special guest today is Greg shown pond who was the sheriff of saint Charles parish and we were just talking about really what a delightful place it is. Wonderful place to raise a family fun things to do outdoors -- -- -- just got this great swamps. And not a lot of change in your lifetime. -- Know we've had some expansion -- you know saint Charles parish is is primarily a petrochemical and heavy industry based economy. Pomp and we're we're very thankful for that. The lord we outs you know large multinational corporations up and down the river of course in some people might. Find that a detriment but it's it's it's it's contributed good jobs so our. Are you know. Most of our population is typical worker is it's a suburban you know. Guy dire lady working at the -- -- make you really. Good salaries on -- our economy is good and you know we even know we might suffer someone employment with you know the downturn that in the national economy. We stayed pretty much consistent so a populations good we have about a good school system. Good public school system. So catalog on force and hopefully you people agree we have a safe place to live. You. What are your biggest areas of concern I -- what is your murder rate for instance. I've been in law enforcement and saint Charles terrorists for 32 years I've never seen a year. That we had more than four homicides in the single year. In fact. But two years ago we went twelve calendar months without a single homicide. So we average about. Two and a half to three homicides a year 2013 where it three that's four at this point would you say most of them aren't domestic. -- No I would say mostly domestic although about in 2011. Three of four murders were both at second emerge as we head during that time three of the four murder suicides which involve domestic disputes. So are they drug related. Probably the majority of them which we don't have many obviously you know we talk about three year a majority of our armed drug related in some way either person is either. It's in involving a drug transaction some -- or a person that is in fact drugs. Domestic violence situation but they're they're very few mean the chances of of it. A good citizen. Being murdered his slam I mean if you're out walking the streets of 3 in the morning may be dealing -- your chances of being killed or little higher but. You know three a year is. It's what are the crimes which are concerned about now. Most of our crime that we have although we believe it is that he fairly low levels property -- That's also connected to. Drug abuse and drug trafficking. Thefts and burglaries while we have those are who are our largest crime problems. Which go hand in hand with with with drug -- there are certain. Percentage there's a certain percentage of of people in our society in of course and tells Paris is no different certain people. Who who wanna use drugs. And when they use drugs. They can't pass a drug test they can't get you can get a job at a McDonald's and -- pass and drug -- -- and recreation we do. You know cocaine -- marijuana one of the illegal drugs -- -- -- pass a drug test so then what are you left to do. To support yourself and live. Steel. On we have a difficult time trying to convince people that we do have a crime rate we believe we have a low crime wait. We're not crime free and and that's our biggest challenges. You know we won't hear from neighborhoods our our our our neighborhood watch groups except for a few but yet when something that we have two -- three inches in the neighborhood two incidents. They're once clamored for neighborhood meeting and we're gonna do about this so they're they're few and for between. But our job is to kind of keep the public convinced that you have to take some reasonable precautions were not crime -- Two years ago we put out are our forces in the summertime we put a door hang on every door just saying look. When you get ID card night locked the door and take your valuables -- and actually put a door hanger once every door we -- a few summer kids and when I'm junior put him on every door. The number of car break ins where kids would run around mostly kids would run around pulling on door handles to see which cars -- -- And then when they find when it's unlocked they grab the GPS. Or somebody's you know while -- -- -- left and so the numbers went down there which they weren't there to begin with. What we focused on that's our biggest challenges to it is to remind people that look we do have some crime you have to take some. Precautions some reason. But cautioned that because in fact if that wonderful sleepy community. Part of a point of pride was I don't have to lock my door and I don't have to. Could end up my car that's flattering because people should not have to worry about becoming a victim so we have to kind of yeah you know. Thought a little bit unstable. But they shouldn't have to worry about that should be our job to worry about protecting them and their property from crime I think we do good job about it. But we have to keep reminding them you know and and people should have to worry about that you -- just you wanna go to your job you wanna come home you wanna be educated. Go to go to sporting events. And not have to worry about criminals and so that's that's our primary role our primary roles are as I've always described it. Is to keep criminals out of the lines of our citizens that's our mission are you aware of hotspots -- where drug drugs are. Every community has -- and we certainly have areas which. Tend to be you know more frequently. Locations of drug abuse. Our biggest drug problems right now -- -- as some of my neighbors have also indicated to you it is for the number one heroin -- Anderson various reasons for that. Heroin and also my guys are telling me again that does synthetic marijuana is is a big big problem right now -- -- if I had. To name the two top problems through god is heroin. And of synthetic marijuana synthetic drugs. Heroin is extinct because as a prosecutor back in the in the eighties and early ninety's. The penalty for distribution of even a come a grain of heroin. Was like in prison without parole I'm not saying we should go back to that but it sometime that was changed to. To coincide with cocaine and other strong drugs and I never saw harrowing case in fourteen years of prosecute and it was -- Now we're seeing it again their their reasons for that the prescription monitoring program that the form seaboard. -- has spearheaded which we together with law enforcement. Doctors pharmacies report. All of the drug transactions prescription drug transactions it is -- easy. For law enforcement and then to see when someone's going doctor shopping when -- you know -- excessive number of pain pills so we've really kind of put a you know put the clamps on that -- so what's happened is people look for a stronger with an opiate which -- fits the bill. In association I turned to heroin. Bring in the Mexican cartels who are now flooding our borders with with cheaper heroin brown -- heroin and and that's a problem it's a very addictive drug. They are there are some people that can be functioning. Heroin addicts I've heard some but for the most part they can't be when they get addicted to heroin they become addicted. And they really don't have the function ability to be able to perform you know concession any of the other parishes of the death the deaths from heroin. Have been great Jefferson -- and over thirty. We average about one month to death to heroin overdose over just about one month. Typically it's. A young person between the -- can point. To that is a heartbreak. But how do you try to prevent something like that. We we fight crime. It's a multifaceted. Battle it starts really with trying to stop crime from happening which is prevention which is dare programs which is. Which is aggressive patrolling is his ability. Education educating parents. Educating the kids. That it's bad. No matter how much we do there always seems to be at certain segment of young people out there that. That wanna try this despite all of teaching despite the facts in the science that can kill you. I can understand -- I mean I never abused drugs back act it's hard to understand the mentality. They reported a new drug that came out from the northeast the other day which is really important which I'm concerned about. A settle fentanyl which. Jefferson Parish reported I think that two people died of an overdose on it over the last several days stronger than heroin through five to ten times stronger than heroin. While we sit here and think why would someone inject themselves with that there are young people out there it is saying wow how can I get a hold some stuff and what is the name of it again. Settle -- -- -- -- -- pronounced it correctly we haven't seen any of -- saint Charles parish it's it's primarily was based in the northeast there was several overdose death. Death there get to reporting Jeffs and I think the report for five so it's a matter of time it's probably. It -- our area but that's an all the key ingredient of that is a drug that they treat people with stage four cancer so people that are in the last stage of cancer. We're treated with that so now they've turned that into. In effect it's synthetic heroin much worse than regular errands like when you think how can get our library anymore now they found something worse so. We're concerned about that there always seems to be something new to the synthetic. Suppliers are in trying to outdo the Mexican cartel. Our guest today is sheriff Greg Sean conduct saint Charles parish and we are also joined by captain Patrick used. Who is C public information officer along with school violence officer and many other things. And I was just very very impressed in reading about. The sort of victims programming have assistance programming and that you call every single person who has been a victim. -- threatening to -- in the state law requires that we notifying contacts certain victims of certain crimes throughout state. And sheriff's departments and -- are responsible making those calls. What we wanted to go a step further more personalized service we do in saint Charles parish so we expanded it not just with those. Well those crimes that are -- report you know required by the by state law. We expanded to every contact so whenever someone files a report whether it's something stolen the bicycle stolen from front door of the house. We're going to follow up with that call. To see if there's any enter additional information they may have in and also talk about some of the services that we offer to two victims within charge and what are those services they could be anywhere from victim reparations that could be constantly dependent on certain crimes. And I just a number of wide range of -- not just within a department that social services that are available we catalog from all we play people when we we can -- April replaced hope. I just think people would if they've moved to saint Charles parish in the last 45 years unfortunately our victim and anything and then they get their follow up calls. They have to be a little surprise to us. People are not victims of crime. And in many do even though it might seem to be something that sounds minor today you know and in a bigger picture of things for them they're still affect them and we want nano and it's very important to us that we. It's not just a reported to file. School -- school. Stopping school violence. Correct we have and it's a program spent an effect for eighteen years now we have officers assigned to each school we started at a time -- it really was kind of unheard of what you think eighteen years ago. Recognizing that when when students feel safe in school. Then they're going to take him it's a better environment and learn more so we started a program in years years ago long before that was school shootings all over. To take that violence out of school. And in basically a little violence is just not acceptable and we draw that line tentative and it's not gonna happen in our school when -- we've got some very impressive results in a reduction of fights we've had when we started this eighteen years ago. It's still even though our parish has grown considerably and eighteen years -- still just a fraction. Of that process works yet just a fraction of the amount of amount of people that are involved you know it fights that we've that we deal with the basic -- we have an officer assigned to school and officers serves as a reality based counselor. They also provide a law enforcement role they also do some -- related education. But a second component it says is that we don't -- fighting in school and after investigations done and we determine who the aggressor is. Then than a student or students depending on investigation is arrested. And their diverted out of the court system are allowed to divert out of the court system in the -- conflict resolution and community service work. In order to be able really address with the violence issues do you have any. Pushed back from parents on that. You know we first introduced it yes maybe a little but it's it's -- a common knowledge in and if you look. It's a trend we sort of such a trend fact our program this is copied throughout country. People constantly asking us send copies of the doesn't like to implement an -- schools we we addressed at a time when we recognized trend. And and because of that I think I think in saint Charles -- it's acceptable. It's acceptable and effective that we recognize we're a little different in and we are going to have to jump on the pedal problems rather than trying to resolve them after that. Now I'll share a -- we're talking about how one of your policies is that you. What did with all hundred jobs that they deputies do they also have to talk to the constituents. Yet we don't wanna lose that personal touch with constituents so we we asked them every day to do what's called citizen contact court. They're a little course stack records they carry around a patrol -- and every day we asked them to try and make contact with two different citizens in their patrol beat. And they just a few simple questions it takes just takes a minute. Asking them what are what are the problems they have and a neighborhood they satisfied with the services from the sheriff's office. And what can we do to make you better and we get those cords every day it gets this constant feedback. And it also gives you the -- easy you know. Puts upon -- did that we want to talk to the public to trying get some feedback. You know and I know we talk about the good things you know we don't do everything perfect do we make mistakes and could do better yes we do. But it's a constant effort you know I'm I'm I'm I'm not satisfied that I'm always pushing. To to try to find new ideas what we can do more and how we can keep contact with the public. An interesting thing in it's my seventeen years now doing this is my primary method of contact with the public seventeen years ago was. By telephone and in the old telephone and they come in for an appointment. My primary contact with citizens right now is FaceBook private -- cash. I've got 5000 people possible to -- -- FaceBook page. And I can be a blessing canals. You know they'll send me a FaceBook message at 10 o'clock it Greg this is Cindy called me now -- you know and so I. Social media has has helped us with citizen contact and so I guess I probably speak with more citizens to FaceBook then. An email messages than in person that's a good thing and that's a bad thing but it's the way people change it anyway and you know and I get a lot we solve crimes and caught at least three fugitives that I know up from FaceBook messages that have gotten from snobs. -- to know we're trying to use that tool as long news. The public. I can think maybe people get tired of FaceBook soon you know but we use -- to as long as it's available to us so we also send out. You know that's division. We've got text messages yes we can use of -- not a one calls a lot let's say if for example a couple of weeks ago we had a a domestic violence incident where the the guy ran from deputies he would kind of cut. His brother in law with a knife ran through a neighborhood and so citizens saw us chasing a -- luckily caught him quick and got in got him arrested everything else. Wind up sending out one call message to within several blocks of letting people know hey look you saw police running -- area there's no reason to fear we had a domestic violence and we've arrested the guy. Everything's fine. So we can use that people want communication via an and the more you give them the more they want -- they they're. They're kind of spoiled to some degree of you know something happens -- would happen today sought a DO deputy -- what you know I want -- what happened so. There's a thirst for republic for for information and non. And I'm putting all we try to communicate in. As many different ways is not I'm looking into as the Facebook share. Little over ten years ago you built a new house of correction but to house not just local but state and federal prisoners. Are correct we will probably the last new newly built correctional institute in Louisiana that was able to obtain. An agreement with the department of corrections to hold state inmates. So I don't they don't even do that anymore because obviously the number of inmates or. It's it's it's -- is down somewhat. For various reasons so yes we do -- we do hold our our parish inmates to pre trial in the locals who commit crimes who we have to hold. We hold state inmates that have been sentenced. And are just doing their time those are the ones we use for -- they do clean -- work. You know paint schools during the summertime. And public works projects are really they're not. A bad class of and I think they do good things for us and we -- federal inmates for the federal government -- a pretrial inmates those ones that have trials. A pending you know next door we holed about a hundred federal inmates for them Marshal service. But we have talked in the past about. Sort of this thought process that's going now that are we incarcerating two -- And it sort of your thoughts on that well and. And I know I've heard infect a couple days ago they had yet there was some -- you're not an issue -- the talking about how you sheriffs are in the profit business and there's a profit motive. A sheriff. Has never sent us an inmate jail a sheriff has never set a bond. We are holding inmates that the course is set bond for that the courts along with the DEA and the attorneys. -- either have been they've been convicted or pled guilty. So I don't -- anyone to prison I can't set -- high bond for anyone I am the gatekeeper and the holder for the court system. That that the jail business is not a profit making business. It it's simply we we we don't get enough money. To meet the true cost of doing it the federal government actually pays us what is closer to. A affair cost for doing it. -- so we pay 24000 I think 39 cents a day from state Louisiana -- state inmates. In return for that we've got to provide -- medical care we've got to freedom obviously closed down. And then provide some mandated programs the most the program I'm the most proud of is our ged program. We work as you heard very closely with our essentials parish public school system. We have TGD teachers which we have to provide in order -- staid image which the sheriff's office space or they come and over the last ten years we have graduated over 300 inmates we've got they've gotten high school diplomas while incarcerated in the Nelson Coleman correction center. So I think that's there are good things that happened in -- know they're there having to serve their time. And -- dot we have to do we have to do something to try and when the day they're released make him a better person in the day they came. So over 300 inmates have left our correctional center last ten years with a high school diploma. We've also got some you know drug abuse counseling. Alcohol anonymous classes naturally all religious. Groups work release programs we averaged between thirty and fifty you know for small Paris that's good. Inmates who were on work release these inmates that have a year and a half a year. Left to go on their -- their low risk minimum security inmates who actually have jobs paying at least minimum wage with industries. Manual labor type job I mean for awhile we had to clean barges on the river. Things that. These companies couldn't really get citizens to go do was hard work. Certainly inmates wanted to do it and they are paid a salary they become an employee of that company they come back to prison -- night. And the money that they make is kept in an escrow account for them upon their release a -- child support that's taken out given. To the family. But other and that the money is left we can't inmates. Who have. Perform these jobs as an employee of the company. And the companies have hired -- NAFTA -- because say hey this is some of the best and what he's evidently -- an -- Number one we know that there you know hopefully not the not on drugs and not abuse and alcohol because we don't allow that to happen. And so some of them and have actually gotten jobs and some of the private sector. So we are we do feel that the inmates that we release and are better people than the inmates that came to us. It's unfortunate that people that we have people that are incarcerated. But we also have to protect innocent people -- criminals and and and and there's there's unfortunately I think a myth. That is being promoted now by some is that we're only arresting. You know people with second offense marijuana charges -- 1520 years I'm not saying there's an odd case somewhere. Where it looks to be miscarriage of justice but I can tell you my experience essentials parish is by the time an inmate. Does something to just didn't get a fifteen or twenty or thirty cents a promise you it's a lot more than a second offense marijuana. It's probably they're 25 arrest are you know so. That is being spread that we just putting you know chronic -- a marijuana smokers in jail for thirty years. It's just not correct from my experience and I can only speak. For the judicial system and our parish -- -- -- -- so but I do believe return out of an inmate who's a better person in the day game. It's been a very quick hour with sheriff Greg John Pont saint Charles parish just wanted to ask you. Sort of your hopes for the parish concerning crime prevention and keeping -- a nice place it is. Well. Thank you for the opportunity to come in and and talked to such a wide audience of our citizens. We have a sense of pride that we feel that -- agency that has tried to improve and tried to be on the cutting edge of technology and new trends in law enforcement. We continue do that every day we trial lot of new things and some of them work in some -- don't work they don't work we like to try something else. We we want. And encourage feedback from our citizens we want we want saint Charles parish to continue to be we believe one of the safest communities in south Louisiana. And we we urge the citizens to get involved with us and help us out and feel free to call -- send -- -- -- -- -- I was -- -- -- -- on -- thank you both. Very very much.