Community meeting attended well, citizens learn safety tips

Published 4:14 am Friday, February 2, 2018

On Tuesday, Captain Wendell O’Berry, commander of the Bogalusa Police Department’s Investigative Division, said a recent string of vehicle and residence burglaries on the south side of the city totaled 46, and included a five-day period last week when 25 burglaries occurred. He said the items taken included handguns.

That prompted Chief Kendall Bullen to call a “Community Meeting” in conjunction with Fate Ferrell, a resident of the south side, to inform residents what they could do to protect themselves.

Those in attendance included Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette, as well as Bogalusa City Council members Gloria Kates, Sherry Fortenberry, Tamira Smith, Doug Ritchie, and Teddy Drummond.

Bullen spoke first. He said he lives in the area where many of the burglaries have occurred.

“We, as a community, can come together,” Bullen said. “We’re as one. Saying it didn’t happen to me, so I don’t care, is not going to work any longer.

“It’s all about us being vigilant. Our police department is getting stronger. It’s growing in the right direction. I think, without a shadow of a doubt, we can win this war.”

O’Berry said that the majority of the burglaries have been committed by juveniles.

“We can work together to stop it,” he said. “If you see somebody selling X-Boxes on a street corner, that’s not normal. We need to stand up to these people. The only thing needed for evil to prevail, is for good people to do nothing.”

BPD Investigative Division Sgt. Josh Spinks was the first to share additional information about not becoming a victim. He said when the police get only an anonymous tip, “there is only so much we can do.”

Spinks urged people to “upgrade” to a concerned citizen’s tip — in which citizens can tell the whole story and establish patterns of the perpetrator’s behavior.

He also advised people to take pictures of the serial numbers on any high dollar items, or to simply write them down, to prove ownership of any recovered items.

Spinks also advised people not to leave their vehicles unlocked, or in the dark.

He said residence burglars have been “pushing window units in.”

“But the harder they have to try, the more evidence they’re likely to leave behind,” Spinks added.

He additionally advised, “Nine times out of ten burglars know you, so look into adding a burglar alarm to your house. Get to know your neighbors, and exchange phone numbers.

“If you discover your vehicle or home have been burglarized, don’t touch it,” said Evidence Officer Sgt. Jeff Bergeron. “If you see fingerprints, great, let us know. But they have to have so many points in common, and most juveniles are not going to be in the DNA system. We do care about what happens to you.”

Ferrell was the next to speak. He alluded to drugs, and then said the following:

“We’ve got a real serious problem because they got a lot of guns,” Ferrell said. “Speak up, because the police can’t do it by themselves. What I see here in Bogalusa, people are too quiet. Speak up. Talk to your neighbors.”

Mayor Wendy Perrette then told of her close personal experience with crime. She said that 10 years ago her next-door neighbor was beaten by a man, whose DNA came back on the case of an elderly woman being raped.

“No one is immune to it,” Perrette said. “I’m a woman and I’m alone, too. But no one is going to take the sanctity of my home. The worst is to stay silent.”

The Krewe of Unity’s Michelle Randolph next urged the community to “come together” to find activities for local “youngsters,” in order to keep themselves busy.

Bogalusa City Council President Gloria Kates said she was grateful the meeting was held in a church.

“It starts with prayer,” she said. “And it’s going to take the entire community.

“Councilwoman (Tamira) Smith and I got to talking about a skating rink or a bowling alley. We have to get the school boards involved.”

Kates added that, “Heroin is an epidemic in Bogalusa.”

The Rev. Marvin Austin Jr. said, “The problem is the gangs in Bogalusa. On Halloween of 2017, I saw a group of kids walking down the street with an AK-47. Two of my pistols were stolen. We’re going to have to go outside town to get some help.”

BPD Investigative Division Maj. James Smith then rose to provide additional information. He said for tipsters not to just tell police “there was a group of seven kids walking down the street.”

“Describe what they are wearing,” he said. “Give a detailed description. Don’t be afraid to say anything. Parents have got to step up. Call them (BPD) and ask to speak to an administrator, or the chief.”

Bullen then told everybody in attendance the BPD is working on truancy and that there is another number, in addition to the 24-hour line of 985-732-3611. He said the Tip Line is 985-732-6238.

“Police officers help a lot of people,” Bullen said. “It’s time to put our feelings aside. We cannot do this without you.”