Richard Barnes, 37, is wanted in connection with two burglaries near Maple Street, a Jan. 30 case in the 900 block of Lowerline and a Feb. 5 case in the 800 block of Cherokee, according to a NOPD news release. Crime maps show a handful of other burglaries in those same blocks in the last two weeks, however, and police say Barnes “is a person of interest in several others,” though they do not specify which ones.
Barnes’ record of burglaries appears to have begun more than 10 years ago, as he pleaded guilty in 2001 to a burglary charge and was sentenced to three years in prison. In 2004, Barnes pleaded guilty again to another burglary charge, again receiving a three-year sentence.
And in 2009, Barnes pleaded guilty to simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling, and was sentenced to 10 years.
One of the victims in the case — who asked only to be identified by his first name, Andrew — said that he and his three roommates were asleep in a Pine Street home in early 2008 when Barnes broke in. He took a laptop from one resident’s room while she was sleeping there and a digital camera, but police found fingerprints on a wireless router that had been moved, said Andrew, who has since moved. After Barnes was picked up on an unrelated drug arrest in February of 2008, he was identified by the residents and charged in the burglary, Andrew said.
The 10-year sentence was out of a maximum of 12 that could have been given for the charge, so Andrew said he was “angry and worried” to see Barnes’ photo as wanted for burglary again in the same area.
“It’s scary to see that he’s been let out so early,” Andrew wrote in an email to UptownMessenger.com. “He clearly has a long history of this behavior and has not stopped breaking into houses despite multiple convictions. At this point it’s simply not safe for him to be out of prison.”
The fact that the system “released a chronic recidivist back into society shows either a callous disregard for our safety, or a lack of government resources that’s putting citizens in danger,” Andrew concluded.
The victim’s frustration is shared by law enforcement officials, said Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office. Barnes does not appear to have received any sort of overturned conviction, so it is unclear how the state Department of Corrections applied sentencing laws to his case.
“What this case is an example of is that, for better or for worse, the laws in Louisiana that calculate the amount of time a person spends in prison can be needlessly complicated,” Bowman said Thursday afternoon. “That is very frustrating. It is frustrating to police officers, and it is frustrating to prosecutors.”
Bowman said it would be inappropriate to comment on whether Barnes will be eligible for habitual-offender status because the current cases have not been reviewed by the district attorney’s office, but that his record will be an issue.
“We certainly consider a defendant’s record when we’re making decisions,” Bowman said.
Anyone who has information about Barnes’ whereabouts is urged to call NOPD Second District property crimes detectives at 658-6020 or CrimeStoppers at 822-1111 (or toll free at 1-877-903-7867) to leave an anonymous tip that could be eligible for a cash reward.