“We were lucky. Nobody got shot. Nobody got hurt, but it’s coming.”Robert Launey, break-in victim, Thrifty Way Pharmacy owner
VILLE PLATTE, LA — Mayor Jennifer Vidrine is turning to law enforcement outside Evangelin Parish to combat a violent crime wave. Residents say the city has to do something, and the police chief says he’s willing to accept any help that comes.
The Ville Platte Police Department recently suffered a $500K budget cut. Chief Neal Lartigue said that resulted in one person patrols each shift, and the crime rate has escalated ever since.
The Thrifty Way Pharmacy in Ville Platte is back on its feet after a break-in Monday morning. Its owner, Robert Launey, wants the city’s leaders to do something and reverse the violent trend.
“We’re afraid. The citizens are getting angry. Somebody is going to die, and we just hope it’s not an innocent person,” Launey told News 10. “I guess I shouldn’t be saying negative things, but we are here to get something done, and if you don’t talk about it, it won’t get done.”
Radio station KVPI initially reported Mayor Jennifer Vidrine told Rotary Club members Tuesday, “ I am at the point of calling in the State Police or the National Guard with their machine guns to help patrol our streets if necessary to restore law and order.”
State Police Troop I Spokesman and Trooper First Class Thomas Gossen confirmed she made that call to a captain Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ll help how we can,” explained Gossen. “We may not be able to provide the amount of resources that she would hope for or the town really would need, but one or two extra people here or there that can help out a little bit in many ways.”
Chief Neal Lartigue said his department is very shorthanded because of officer retention. He said, “I’ll take anyone they can send if they do. It’s not about anything else but the public safety.”
The Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office already has a presence in Ville Platte. Lartigue said he has a great relationship with Department.
Chief Lartigue said he’s arrested several juveniles for burglaries and wildly firing guns at night. He’s warned parents to keep an eye on them or they could be accountable too.
“If your 12, 13, or 14-year-old son is out after curfew or even after dark, you should know where that kid is at,” Lartigue said.
The person behind the Thrifty Way Pharmacy break-in hasn’t been caught yet, but those working there, like pharmacist Alaina Bischoff, are hopeful the extra help could turn Ville Platte’s crime around.
“I moved here because I loved growing up here, but I don’t feel the same way about my children,” Bischoff admitted. “It makes me question moving out here, but I still have hope.”
News 10 did make multiple attempts to speak with Mayor Vidrine who said she was busy all Wednesday.
Chief Lartigue said he’s working with her to raise police pay salaries which are currently $11.63 per hour, but he did not give an exact timeline for when that change will be brought before the city council.