Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said Wednesday she is "completely committed" to the future success of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program after her office asked for more time to understand a request to give BRAVE more money.
The Metro Council on Wednesday took up an item that would have increased the amount of federal grant money the city gives to LSU for the BRAVE program by $125,000, bringing the total to $806,233. But Broome's office asked to put the brakes on it.
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer James Gilmore told the council he has asked LSU for more details about the proposal. He said they are meeting next week to understand it better.
Two-and-a-half years after Baton Rouge launched a crime-fighting experiment aimed at convinc…
Council members dug in and questioned the commitment to the program aimed at young gang members. BRAVE brings together law enforcement, community leaders and those most at-risk of committing crimes, targeting them through data, and trying to inspire them to change their lives.
Those most at-risk of committing crimes who live in the city's most dangerous ZIP codes attend "call-ins," where they are given the option to enroll in the BRAVE program, which provides mentoring, a GED program and job placement. They are also told that they can ignore the program but follow the law, or they can continue lives of crime and suffer the legal consequences.
BRAVE began with a $1.5 million federal grant in 2012, and another $1 million grant in 2013 helped to expand the program. Other grants along the way have helped continue to expand and sustain BRAVE, but the main grant paying for it is set to expire later in 2017.
"Does this mean y'all are abandoning the BRAVE program?" asked Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso.
Gilmore responded "absolutely not" and then Broome also addressed the council, saying she is committed to the program. Councilman Dwight Hudson also asked for reassurance that the funding request will come back before the Metro Council. Gilmore assured him it will.
The number of killings in East Baton Rouge Parish dropped dramatically in 2016, falling to l…
Though the federal grant for BRAVE will end in September or October of 2017, the city-parish can apply for an extension to use remaining money that was part of the grant but went unused to keep paying for BRAVE.
Broome said the program is "being looked at very diligently" after Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks questioned whether BRAVE has been a success. But Broome said BRAVE has been valuable to Baton Rouge.
In the past year, BRAVE has also morphed from a government program into a nonprofit with its own board. The organization has taken some credit for Baton Rouge's falling homicide rate, which reached its lowest level in a decade in 2016.