BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – After New Orleans saw an uptick in car break-ins during sporting events, one state representative is proposing a law she hopes will deter burglars.
State Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, has introduced a bill that would increase punishments for simple burglary.
“People are taking advantage of very vulnerable situations,” Schlegel said.
Under HB16, if someone commits simple burglary within one square mile of a parade, festival, sporting event or other public gatherings they could face up to 12 years in prison with one year not having the option of parole.
The bill also has the same enhanced punishment if someone is caught committing a string of simple burglaries, such as hitting several cars on the same street or neighborhood at once.
Under current law, the punishment for simple burglary is:
§62. Simple burglary
A. Simple burglary is the unauthorized entering of any dwelling, vehicle, watercraft, or other structure, movable or immovable, or any cemetery, with the intent to commit a felony or any theft therein, other than as set forth in R.S. 14:60.
B.(1) Except as provided in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, whoever commits the crime of simple burglary shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars, imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than twelve years, or both.
(2) If the offender, while committing the crime of simple burglary, is armed with a firearm or, after entering, arms himself with or possesses a firearm, the offender shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than three nor more than twelve years.
“A lot of these burglaries are happening when people are sleeping…and then also when people are at events and there are massive amounts of parked cars. I just think that sort of deserves an enhancement in the penalty when it comes to burglary,” Schlegel said.
The lawmaker said she heard from people who are afraid to go into the city after the slew of crime reports. She fears it could have a major impact on the events around the state.
“People aren’t wanting to go. The sentiment is people are not feeling safe and our economy is around tourism,” Schlegel said.
The most common rebuttal to bills in the past that look to increase punishments is that it does not actually deter people from committing crimes, and leads to just putting more people in prison. Schlegel said while she supports rehabilitation measures, there needs to be some sort of relief.
“We know we have to do something. I am a big believer that things aren’t mutually exclusive. I do believe holding people accountable is not mutually exclusive to actually caring enough about people so that they are successful,” Schlegel said.
The bill will be up for debate in the regular legislative session that starts on April 10.