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VP council discusses ways to stop loitering at gas stations

After all the pomp and circumstance of the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday afternoon, the mayor and city council of Ville Platte got to work and discussed options of curtailing the loitering problem at two of the city’s gas stations.
Councilman Mike Perron posed the question to Chief Neal Lartigue following reports of loitering problems at the Shell Y-Not Stop on the corner of Tate Cove and LaSalle and at East End Exxon on the corner of Main and Chataignier on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
“Every weekend when there’s a big party in town, the parking lot is full,” said Chief Lartigue. “Most times my guys try to get there early, but, by the time they get there, it’s jammed up.”
Councilman Perron and Councilwoman Faye Lemoine suggested officers getting to the places early enough before the crowds get too large. Chief Lartigue replied, “If (the officers) are busy, then they can’t get there until after the crowd is there.”
If officers do get to the gas stations to prevent the crowds from getting too large, according to the chief, “then I would have another complaint because they didn’t show up to a house call.”
Councilman Bryant Riggs brought up placing cameras in those areas. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine advised there currently is a camera in the area of the Exxon station.
“We had this problem six or seven months ago,” said the mayor. “We spoke to the owner about his loitering signs. He put one up, and it did stop. I think they changed owners, so what I can do on my part is have a conversation with the present owner and reiterate to him it’s his responsibility to make them leave.”
The discussion continued about the police department possibly being more preventive on the problem.
Councilman Riggs then used the issue to again bring up his proposed ordinance to require businesses in the city to have security. “The store owners are making all this money from these big crowds, so should we require them to have security,” he asked.
To that point, the mayor replied, “The problem with that is you can’t make some do it. Then, on the flip side, it’s not fair to the owners who do not have these problems and having to put that expense on them.”
“I got a solution,” Chief Lartigue chimed in. “Give me more men and more money in my budget.”
With that, the mayor echoed her prior comment that she will “have a conversation with the new owner” of the Exxon station.
Mayor Vidrine then brought up an earlier proposed tip line for residents in the city “where people can call and report some information about crimes being done.”
As an alternative to the tip line, the mayor explained to the council about a program used in Augusta, Maine, called Tips 411.
“It’s an app on the phone where people can call in any information and nothing is documented or recorded,” said the mayor. “I did contact the people in Augusta, and they love it. They said it’s working really well, and it has helped the police department solve more crimes.”
Chief Lartigue commented, “With this app, the dispatcher will get a text on her computer. She will read it and can actually respond to it while not knowing who she’s talking to.”
The Ville Platte mayor further reported crime in Augusta has gone down since use of the app began and that she will find out the cost of the program.
“I think it’ll be excellent,” expressed councilwoman Lemoine.
Earlier in the meeting, the mayor welcomed the two new councilmembers Coach Lionel Anderson and Lemoine. According to Mayor Vidrine, Lemoine is the third woman to serve on the city council following Helen Dardeau and Carol Alfred.
In other business, the council:
• approved the the hiring of a part-time dispatcher.
• approved the annual longevity pay for city employees.
• set a public hearing for Monday, February 11, at 5:30 p.m. in city hall regarding a third Internet provider in the city.
• and re-appointed Senator Eric LaFleur as city attorney, Guy Mitchell as city prosecutor, Ronald Landreneau as city engineer, Shountilez Williams as city clerk, and Don White as street commissioner/public works director.

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