An investigation by the Port Allen Police Department has revealed a “network” of juveniles and at least one adult involved in local vehicle burglaries and gun and drug trafficking, Lt. Alaric Celestaine told the City Council Wednesday, May 13.
PAPD is working with the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to identify and collect enough evidence to prosecute those involved in the 24 reported vehicle burglaries since mid-March.
Two people were arrested Sunday night following a traffic stop, according to Zack Simmers, media liaison for the WBRSO. Officers found tools commonly used in home invasions, including bolt cutters and a crowbar in their vehicle along with drugs, Simmers said. Their names are not being released in order to protect the investigation.
PAPD has recovered at least one gun from Plaquemine that was reported stolen from Port Allen about two weeks ago. Some of the weapons recovered were never reported stolen, Lt. Celestaine said. The ATF is assisting with the investigation to help track the recovered guns.
Detectives think the crime spree began outside of the city limits earlier this year and as the thieves got better at their craft they became more brazen and began stealing belongings from cars around mid-March. They likely are involved in criminal activity in Baton Rouge and Plaquemine as well, Lt. Celestaine said.
East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux warned residents about multiple armed burglaries yesterday. The suspects are shown on surveillance video dressed in long sleeve hoodies and masks.
“The network keeps growing,” he said.
It is a sophisticated operation with lookouts who keep track of police on patrol and the thieves dress in long-sleeves, masks and gloves so as not to be identified or leave DNA evidence.
In one reported burglary, the thieves threw a brick through the window of a car parked in a driveway to steal a gun tucked away inside of the vehicle. It is the only reported case involving property damage, Lt. Celestaine said.
“My car was locked when they showed up and pulled on my door handle, violating my personal space and property,” Port Allen resident Courtney Maciasz said. “Then, showed up a second time to hit our houses again... They are brazen, and feel there’s no consequences because they have been getting away with it.”
“Progress is being made,” he said. “And we thank the Port Allen city for their patience as we try to make this the most complete and effective investigation that we can.”