ST. TAMMANY, La. - Despite 2014 getting off to a violent start, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office says the unincorporated areas, where the majority of the population lives, was safer in 2013.
Statistics show all crimes, except robbery, went down and there were no homicides, the first time in the department's history, all while the population continues to grow.
“The team here at the sheriff's office, with our sister agencies in the parish, work to make sure that we reduce crime as much as we possibly can and prevent any crime from occurring, but when they do occur, that we do everything in our power to solve them," Sheriff Jack Strain said.
Strain gives credit to cooperative residents, like Ralph O'Neal, who runs the S.A.L.T. (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) Council, an organization dedicated to teaching seniors how to avoid being victimized.
"A number of programs, including programs like the S.A.L.T. Council, can make a difference in reducing that crime because the people are aware and understand what's going on," he said.
Eyewitness News checked with other law enforcement agencies to see what their crime stats were for 2013. A majority of municipalities maintained their zero homicide rate, but Mandeville had its first shooting in about three years and Slidell had five murders, the most they've had in more than 10 years.
"One homicide in Slidell is too many,” said Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith, “Five is way too many. And I’m just proud to say it ended with every one of them solved."
But Smith said it hasn't been easy due to budget cuts totaling more than a million dollars, which has led to seven fewer officers on the streets than when he took over in 2010. However, everyone agrees crime must stay a priority to keep it on the decline.
The sheriff’s office also reports its 89 percent solve rate for violent crimes exceeds the national average of less than 50%. The Slidell chief said he plans to ask the council for more money this year to hire more officers.