Media MICHELLE HUNTER | Staff writer-Jan 13, 2024

Fast response times, quick arrests credited for fewer crimes

Unincorporated Jefferson Parish saw an 11% drop in major crime in 2023, mirroring a trend seen across the United States, according to statistics released by the Sheriff’s Office.

The agency recorded decreases in every category of crime reported to the FBI except rape, Sheriff Joe Lopinto III said.

It made for the second fewest crimes recorded since 1974, when the Sheriff’s Office first began tracking crime figures, Lopinto said. The year 2021 remains the record holder.

“I believe that we’re doing a better job of solving crime quickly, and that prevents other crimes from occurring,” Lopinto said.

Others credit the agency’s rapid response times and rising staffing levels.

Neighboring New Orleans is celebrating a similar decrease in crime, with declines in homicides, robberies and carjackings, according to the Police Department. And preliminary data from the FBI has shown dips in most violent and non-violent crime categories in the U.S., crime analyst Jeff Asher said.

“Data from our collection of about 200 cities shows that murder is down 12.2%. That’s predictive of a large decline in 2023. How large is not yet known,” he said.


The Sheriff’s Office statistics do not include crime in the municipalities of Gretna, Kenner, Westwego, Harahan, Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle, which have their own police forces and keep their own records.

Last year, Jefferson deputies responded to 8,889 reports of crimes in the seven major categories tracked annually by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft.

Detectives investigated 31 homicides, down 37% from 49 in 2022. Last year’s tally included four cases of murder-suicide, including a shocking 24-hour period that saw two West Bank families decimated by the tragedy:

  • On Feb. 8, investigators say, Syril Boudoin, 21, fatally shot his brother, Syrian Boudoin, 17, before taking his own life at their Mesa Drive home in Marrero. Their mother said the brothers had been locked in a spiral of grief and depression after the deaths of their father, grandmother and great-grandmother.
  • Twelve hours later, detectives discovered the bodies of four people inside a Curtis Street home in Harvey. Authorities said financial pressures had likely prompted Timothy Earl Ragas, 43, and Joanna Ragas, 45, to shoot and kill their sons, Timothy Bruce Ragas, 13, and Eric Thornblom, 20, before killing themselves.
  • Five days after that, detectives said W.G. Clemons, a 26-year-old North Carolina man visiting his girlfriend’s Harvey home, killed himself after shooting David Richardson, 56, the boyfriend of his girlfriend’s mother.
  • On June 24, Irione Young, 26, died at the hands of her boyfriend, Derrick Robinson, 38, who then took his own life, authorities said. 

The murder of 6-year-old Belle Fontenelle sent shock waves through the community as residents learned the details surrounding the April 26 death of the little girl who was allegedly strangled by her father’s live-in girlfriend, Bunnak “Hannah” Landon. Though investigated by the Sheriff’s Office, the homicide occurred in Harahan and is not counted among unincorporated Jefferson Parish’s murders. 

Crime declines

Rape was the only crime category that saw an uptick in 2023. Sexual assaults crept up by 1%, Lopinto said.

But unincorporated Jefferson Parish saw decreases in every other crime, including auto thefts, which surged in New Orleans and other parts of the country after viral social-media videos showed people how to exploit weaknesses in certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles

“We did not see the influx that they did in other places,” Lopinto said of the Kia thefts. “There was a bump, but nowhere near what others saw.”

There were 579 auto thefts in unincorporated Jefferson Parish last year, down 6% from the previous year. Burglaries were down 10%, thefts down 12%.

Robberies slipped 0.4%, with 245 reported in 2023 compared to 246 in 2022, Lopinto said. 

Overall crime had been on the decline since 2014, with decreases every year except 2022, which saw a 17% increase. Sheriff’s Office noted that spike came after the record-low crime rate in 2021. 

Rapid response and arrests

In 2023, staffing levels within the Sheriff’s Office stabilized, particularly in the parish jail, where the agency had implemented overtime policies to fill empty positions, Lopinto said.

The Sheriff’s Office now has 1,303 employees, including 290 POST-certified patrol officers — up 10% from 2022. 

But the agency’s success, Lopinto said, lies in its ability to make arrests quickly. He mentioned the case of a 16-year-old suspect accused of stealing a cab at gunpoint in Marrero on Monday; the teen was taken into custody the next day in Harvey, after a brief chase in the stolen vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office said. 

“When we arrest an armed robber, he doesn’t get to stay out there and commit another 10 robberies,” Lopinto said. 

Tech aides

The tools at the agency’s disposal, including its digital forensic laboratory and in-house crime lab, help investigators quickly make cases, Lopinto said. The proliferation of other technology, including video from business surveillance and residential cameras, also helps deputies get to crime scenes quickly, gather solid information on a suspect and track their movements, he said. 

“Before, we’d have a vehicle burglary in the middle of the night, but no suspect info,” said Lopinto, who credited doorbell cameras with swift alerts that let deputies respond to scenes while the perpetrators are still in the area. 

While video technology and the agency’s 5- to 7-minute response times are boons to criminal investigations, authorities admit they’ve also led to more confrontations with suspects.  

Jefferson Parish deputies shot 11 people in 2023, four of them fatally. It was the highest number of shootings by the agency’s deputies in the past five years. 

While critics have said the number warrants increased scrutiny for the agency, Lopinto has defended his officers and their right to use deadly force to protect themselves when the circumstances call for it. 

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said the statistical ups and downs of crime in unincorporated Jefferson Parish are negligible. 

“That’s because there’s consistency in Jefferson Parish,” he said. “When someone dials 911, whether it’s a down year or an up year, you’re going to see the Sheriff’s Office responding in 5 minutes or less.”

The agency’s high solve rate means fewer criminals on the street, Goyeneche said. 

“I think we’re a safe community, and the numbers bear that out,” Parish Council member Scott Walker said. “There’s a reason a lot of people want to be in Jefferson Parish, and I think a lot of that starts with the men and women of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.”