The Lafayette Police Department is hoping new initiatives to increase visibility and effectiveness in the community will help crack down on an increase in drug-related crime.
Mayor Tony Roswarski says the amount of drug-related crime has increased along with the statewide surge in heroin and methamphetamine use. As the police pointed out Thursday, hardly anyone robs a convenience store or commits fraud against their friends family in order to buy a family dinner.
"When you look at our violent crime, probably about 90-some percent of our violent crime is driven by some type of drug-related issue", Roswarski says. "Of our property crime, about 80-percent of that the property crime is driven by some drug-related issue, and certainly that is an increase for us."
Police Chief Pat Flannelly announced Thursday the LPD will add one new member to its drug task force, one to the crime prevention unit and two new officers to the department’s street crimes team.
"Really just like any other team, if you’re running short, it limits the number of cases you can work," he says. "And the unfortunate thing is there is no shortage of cases to work right now."
That means the LPD has a lot of recruiting work to do in the months ahead. In addition to the new positions, the department has six current vacancies and more possibly on the way as people retire.
The department is also increasing the number of take-home police vehicles available to officers, hoping their presence will act as a criminal deterrent.
"People want to see us more," says Flannelly. "When they're reading about crime or hearing about crime, I think it just sends a sense of comfort to know that maybe there's a policeman living in their neighborhood that maybe you didn't know before, because he drives his own car back and forth to work."
"We need everybody's help," says Roswarski, who notes he wants Lafayette residents to forge stronger relationships with their neighborhoods and participate in volunteer efforts. He also hopes residents lobby their lawmakers to provide better access to treatment and healthcare options for criminals and drug addicts:
"We need detox centers, mental health facilities, things like that," says Roswarski. "We cannot just arrest our way out of this problem."