Study: Boom will also bring crime

Published 7:17 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A recent study indicated that crime will rise as more people move to Southwest Louisiana to work on the multi-billion-dollar industrial expansion projects. But Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said his office’s research suggests that most new crimes will likely be committed by “the same hometown criminals,” instead of new residents.

Released earlier this month, the Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study stated there is “concern that the concentration of temporary workers in worker villages will present short-term challenges requiring stepped-up patrols and other activities.” Mancuso said the study has merit, but he believes most of the increases in criminal activity will come from “locals preying on the new residents.”

“I think we will get somebody in there who will cause us problems,” he said. “We are optimistic that we will adapt to this change.”

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The region already has two temporary employee villages planned — Moss Lake Village and Pelican Lodge. But the study said the region needs 7,000 more units to fill the demand at peak time. The study predicts more than 20,000 residents to move into the region over the next five years, most of them residing in Calcasieu.

Mancuso said a group of commanders visited two areas this year — Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, and Odessa, Texas — to see how they have adjusted to the growth, including temporary employee villages. He said both areas had populations similar to Calcasieu Parish.

“Those areas saw an increase in crime of about 3-5 percent,” Mancuso said. “We go through those trends sometimes naturally.”

Mancuso said a parish-wide intelligence agency, made up of partners on the local, state and federal levels, has studied how to accommodate the growth. He said they have heard those living in temporary employee villages “are coming here to work” and that other communities “have very little trouble out of these workers.”

The study also mentioned that the increased traffic could lead to longer response times for police, fire and emergency responders. That, Mancuso said, is the department’s biggest concern. The report indicated that overall traffic delays could rise by 45 percent from current figures.

Acadian Ambulance Service — which provides “emergency and non-emergency medical services” for Southwest Louisiana parishes, except Cameron — could also be affected by the growth, according to the report. The report said Acadian’s current response time is “8 minutes in urban areas and 15-20 minutes in rural areas.”

According to the report, the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office has 10 substations within the parish and has more than 800 employees, including 187 deputies in its patrol division. The Lake Charles Police Department has 190 employees. Mancuso said the Sheriff’s Office has enough deputies to adequately patrol the current population, but that they, and other agencies, can make adjustments over time as more people move into the area.

“It’s not like a storm that comes in and thrusts a population on us at one time,” he said. “We have people who are prepared to roll their sleeves up to make this transition smooth and prosperous for everybody.”(MGNonline)