LACOMBE -- Crime appears to be on the rise in an unlikely place.
Authorities in St. Tammany are seeing some of their highest murder rates in decades.
So far this year, the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office reports 15 homicide deaths in the unincorporated parts of the parish. All of them have been solved, except for one.
For comparison, there were four homicides in 2014 and in 2016. In 2015, there were three and in 2013 there were none. The last time the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office recorded double-digit murder figures was in 2007, with ten.
Lately, the increase in crime has been centered on the community of Lacombe. Since the start of November, the area has seen seven people shot, two of them were killed. All but one of those calls occurred within a mile of each other.
"We believe some of these violent crimes were committed due to the fact they were drug related. We do know that," said St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith. "It's unusual. Lacombe's usually quiet, nothing going on, people stay to themselves."
But residents, many who didn't want to talk on camera, say the increase in crime has led them to turning more eyes to the streets and ears to each other.
"I just watch more stuff," said David Fischbeir, who's lived in the community for more than 20 years. "See what's going on."
At the same time, a new substation has opened in the area, allowing for more presence and patrols to quickly take on calls of suspicious activity.
That combined effort led to the recent arrest of a convicted felon for allegedly dealing drugs from his home on North 31st Street.
St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith says he wants to see that partnership with the public continue.
"We want our citizens to be safe and we want them to have trust in us and the police and the sheriff's department so they can report information and we can act on it quickly to help prevent these violent crimes from happening," he said.
And so a usually quiet community can return to its carefree way of life.
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