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State Police will have a more visible presence on the roads of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Helena parishes as 10 new troopers take to the highways that cross the north shore.
The troopers, assigned to Troop L in Mandeville, are among 74 new recruits who will patrol roads across the state after graduating from the State Police Training Academy on Friday.
“We have never had this type of manpower,” said Capt. Oleander Smith, commander of Troop L. “We’re truly lucky. Our local legislators have been good to us.”
Troop L, with the support of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies, has been pushing for more troopers since the north shore population swelled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Studies done in the aftermath of the storm showed, based on population and the number of miles traveled by motorists, Troop L’s 50 troopers were covering an area that needed about 70 units on the road, Smith said.
When staffing was thin troopers were forced to be reactive, rushing from one accident scene to another with the assistance of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, Smith said. As the troop has grown, these troopers have been able to step up their presence on the highways to potentially deter those who would speed or drive unsafely, he said.
The new recruits, combined with others who joined over the past year, have swelled Troop L’s ranks to 67 troopers, Smith said. By putting more troopers on the road, particularly in trouble spots, Smith said he hopes to cut down on accidents, drunken driving and speeding. “People got to the point where they didn’t see us and they did their own thing,” Smith said. “Now we’ve got to get people back into the groove and realize the speed limit is not 80, it’s 70.”
The money for the new troopers was included in this year’s budget.
The new recruits will spend at least 45 days training with veteran troopers before being sent out on patrol alone, Smith said.
The new troopers are: Kevin M. Barnes Jr., Jeremiah V. Bell, Brett M. Dupre, Matthew S. Graham, Denis J. Indest III, Marlena A. Lee, Jeremy J. Price, Eric K. Thaxton, Ernest C. Wilkes and Nicholas Yatcilla.