Sid Gautreaux promises East Baton Rouge Parish voters crime fighting with “innovative and aggressive techniques” if re-elected sheriff, while opponent Mark E. Milligan asserts the Sheriff’s Office lacks leadership and needs a “new attitude.”

Gautreaux, a Republican, is facing former Baton Rouge police officer and Democrat Milligan in the Oct. 22 primary election.

Early voting in the election began Saturday and ends Oct. 15. There will be no early voting on Sunday.

Gautreaux, 62, is running on the same campaign platform he used four years ago when he won election to the top law enforcement position.

“If re-elected, I pledge to the residents to continue to combat crime with innovative and aggressive techniques that are focused on community policing, education and outreach,” Gautreaux said. “I think the numbers show that what we are doing is working.”

Since he took office on Dec. 4, 2007, Gautreaux said, the number of violent crimes investigated by sheriff’s deputies has decreased 42 percent. The number of homicides has decreased 57 percent and the amount of property crime has gone down 13 percent, he said.

Gautreaux said he attributes the decrease in crime to a 42 percent increase in the number of deputies patrolling the streets as well as stronger relationships with residents and other law enforcement agencies.

“We cannot do this alone,” Gautreaux said. “We have to reach out to the community in order to bridge the gap between residents and law enforcement.”

To bolster that relationship, the sheriff said his office has hosted hundreds of community outreach programs, increased the office’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in schools and started programs such as Reality Behind Bars.

Other things Gautreaux said he’s done during his tenure include opening Sheriff’s Office substations in Zachary and Pride/Port Hudson; updating the agency’s outdated equipment, fleet radio, computer and phone systems; and creating homicide, community policing, K-9 and bike patrol units.

“I plan to continue along this same vein of aggressive, innovative enforcement and couple that with constant outreach, education and collaboration,” the sheriff said. “The two must go hand in hand.”

Milligan, 52, said he believes the Sheriff’s Office not only lacks leadership, but the office needs a “new attitude,” especially when it comes to incarceration.

“We cannot ‘lock them up’ our way out of this problem,” Milligan said. “We have to educate them.”

Milligan said, if elected, he would make sure that deputies are in alternative schools across the parish, “creating a discipline environment so our children can get their education.”

He said he also would ask the state Legislature to enact legislation that would require anyone convicted of a crime in East Baton Rouge Parish to earn their GED if they haven’t already.

Milligan said building trust in the community is important as well.

“People don’t trust law enforcement,” he said. “That has to change.”

To spark such change, Milligan said, he would encourage residents to exchange phone number and emails with deputies and for deputies to have monthly meetings with people in various neighborhoods.

To combat crime, Milligan said, he would ensure a greater Sheriff’s Office presence in high-crime areas and would use bike patrols and “boots on the ground to bring a different perspective to the community.”

“I will lead in a manner that will demonstrate my commitment in reducing the crime through measures that won’t cause us to have to reach into our pockets and pay for yet another failure of law enforcement,” he said.

Milligan ran for sheriff four years ago, facing Gautreaux and three other opponents.

Gautreaux won the 2007 election in a runoff against Greg Phares, who was named sheriff after Elmer Litchfield vacated the office because of health reasons.

Winning 40,624 votes, or 52 percent of the vote, Gautreaux, then a Democrat, unseated Phares, a Republican, by 2,400 votes.

Milligan garnered 5,022 votes, or 4 percent of ballots cast, in the 2007 primary election.