Crimestoppers honors Sheriff Jack StephensMar 4th, 2011 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: News
Residents near the age of 30 in St. Bernard Parish wouldn’t remember any parish sheriff other than Jack A. Stephens.
Sheriff Stephens took office July 1, 1984, after his first election the previous year and is now in his seventh term, giving him nearly 27 years in office – currently the longest serving sheriff in Louisiana.
Now, to honor his career, the non-profit group Crimestoppers Inc. of Greater New Orleans has named Sheriff Stephens recipient of its Sheriff Harry Lee Criminal Justice Award, named for the man who served Jefferson Parish as sheriff from 1980 until his death in 2007 at age 75 after a battle with leukemia.
Lee, known for his shoot-from-the-hip style, was one of the most famous politicians in Louisiana history.
Sheriff Stephens, who will receive the award at a luncheon on Thursday, March 17, said he was caught off-guard when his office was informed of it by Darlene Cusanza, President and CEO of Crimestoppers.
“I was surprised,’’ Sheriff Stephens said. “Harry was a friend for a long time and I had a great deal of respect and affection for him.
“I’m honored to be the recipient of an award named for him.’’
Sheriff Stephens added, “Anything I have achieved as sheriff has been because of the work of the men and women of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office.’’
Cusanza, whose organization is celebrating 30 years of offering rewards for information on crime in the area – leading to numerous arrests – said the Sheriff Harry Lee Award is given “in recognition of someone who has served the community in the criminal justice arena.’’
“It’s in recognition of his career,’’ Cusanza said of Sheriff Stephens.
Tickets to the luncheon are $50 in advance and can be purchased by phoning (504) 837-8477 or by going online to crimestoppersgno.org, Cusanza said.
She said of Sheriff Stephens: “He has been a wonderful friend and ally to Crimestoppers over the years,’’ saying for example, “He supported and assisted in lobbying for a $2 court fee in cases to help the reward process (for Crimestoppers) reach up to $2,500 and has provided someone to work with us to forward information for investigation.’’
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Sheriff’s Office,’’ Cusanza said.
Sheriff Stephens previously received a major honor in law enforcement when, in August 2008, he was inducted into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame in recognition of his career in law enforcement.
He has enjoyed the reputation of serving the community with the lowest crime rate in Southeast Louisiana.
Sheriff Stephens, who previously was Chief Administrative Officer of St. Bernard government and director of its Planning Commission, is a life-long parish resident.
He was born in the fishing community of Shell Beach, where he still lives on the water and loves to catch the area’s wonderful seafood.
The sheriff was graduated from St. Bernard High School in 1966, earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Loyola University, attended Loyola Law School and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University. He also was graduated from the FBI Law Enforcement Training Academy.
A list if some of the things Sheriff Stephens has accomplished in office include:
- Bringing professionalism to a suburban Sheriff’s Office
- Started up a network of sheriff’s sub-stations at all parish lines to help protect St. Bernard’s borders
- Built a modern parish prison and juvenile detention center to have room for offenders rather than releasing them
- Established an Internal Affairs Division
- Started the first holiday ride home program in the New Orleans area to help prevent drinking-and-driving
- Tripled the number of law enforcement personnel in his department
- Created the Neighborhood Watch program to fight crime and Citizens Police Academy to teach residents basic operational procedures of the Sheriff’s Office and court system
- Established dope and traffic hotlines to battle drug-dealers and traffic violators
- Opened a 24-hour shelter for victims of domestic violence and has established a full-time domestic violence detective slot to handle follow-up investigations in domestic violence cases.
- Established the Sheriff’s Office as an active member of Crimestoppers to give incentives for people to report leads in unsolved crimes
- Oversaw the largest seizure ever of illegal drugs in St. Bernard in 1991, more than two tons of cocaine valued at $1 billion