It takes a lot of effort to make sure Bossier Parish keeps its growth going in the right direction and the base starts with public safety.
The Bossier Sheriff’s Office and towns in the parish, namely Haughton and Benton, are managing to keep their crime levels in check despite more and more rooftops going up all across the towns and unincorporated areas in the parish.
“You can build new roads, bring in new industry and a strong military base, but people won’t come here if it’s not safe,” Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington said. “They won’t want to live here or send their kids to school here. That’s why we take our jobs so seriously.”
Bossier Parish crime statistics for 2016 show there were no homicides and the majority of crimes against people were usually between families or friends.
Whittington singled out the number of residential burglaries, which was 40 in 2016, as a particularly low number.
“Numbers that low are unheard of. It’s incredible,” Whittington said. “You can go to any other parish and ask how many they have, I can promise you they’ll have more than 40.”
One area that needs improving is the number of vehicle burglaries. Statistics show there were 120 car burglaries reported in 2016. Whittington said most of those could have easily been prevented.
“By in large, it’s unlocked vehicles,” he said. “That is one thing that’s preventable if people would lock their cars and not leave valuables in their vehicle.”
With a growing parish come road related calls, specifically speeding, aggressive drivers, and inattentive drivers.
“We get a lot of traffic calls. We have six motorcycles that do nothing but traffic enforcement along with out regular deputies as well,” Whittington said. “I don’t see the traffic problems getting better anytime soon. We’ll just have to work with that as we continue to grow.”
Still, as the parish continues to grow, the Sheriff’s Office will maintain its focus on keeping Bossier a great place to live.
“This is a premier place to live, work and go to school. I don’t know why you’d want to live anywhere else,” Whittington said.
Meanwhile, Haughton Police Chief Todd Gibson plans to add more patrol officers to keep up with the residential and commercial growth.
“It’s growing quick so we’re trying to stay on top of it and make sure we have the resources and man power to enforce the law like we’re supposed to do.”
Haughton’s biggest problem areas include traffic related calls and petty thefts.
“Our officers have done a great job these first few months of the year addressing the traffic complaints,” Gibson said. “One of the biggest complaints we’ve had is speeding through the neighborhoods.”
Gibson said his department has also been doing more individualized patrols, which means officers are focusing patrols on individual businesses and neighborhoods.
“We’re dividing up how we patrol and making sure we’re covering as much area as we can with whoever is working,” he said.
Overall, Gibson said Haughton is “a very safe place” to live. He credits that to the citizens they serve.
“We have a great community. It all goes back to the people who live here,” he said. “They are quick to inform us if they see any suspicious activity or if they see someone who doesn’t belong in the area. Our citizens are the eyes and ears of this community.”
The Town of Benton’s Police Chief said crime has stayed low the past year and is looking ahead to stay proactive.
“Benton is one of the safest small towns,” said Chief Charles Pilkinton. “The whole parish is doing pretty well itself, but we’re doing well in our town.”
His department deals mostly with juvenile complaints, domestic calls, shoplifting, animal complaints and speeding. As far as violent calls, those numbers have decreased from past years.
“We haven’t had any armed robberies or anything like that. We do a lot of domestic violence calls and that’s about it,” Pilkinton said.
The population in Benton is slowly rising due to the new neighborhoods being built in and around the town. Pilkinton has been the Police Chief for 14 years now and part of the police department for 21 years total. In that time, he has watched the town grow and his responsibilities grow, too.
“We are very proactive in the way we police here,” he said. “We make ourselves known in the neighborhoods and on the streets. We stay pretty busy up here with the influx of people coming in.”
Pilkinton said he will more than likely have to add numbers to his force.
“Eventually we will have to add employees to our department with the growth of these subdivisions,” he said. “That’s not something I’m looking to do in the next year or two, but probably five or six years down the road.”