Local law enforcement agencies are preparing to perform a “sweep” of known criminal groups in Baton Rouge in the coming weeks as part of the city’s latest crime-fighting initiative, city-parish officials said.
The “sweep” is recommended in the national design upon which the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE, is based. It is one of the first major steps before agencies start calling in targeted offenders in high-crime areas for meetings to offer them a way out of crime, said BRAVE’s director, Herbert “Tweety” Anny.
Authorities will focus most of their efforts in the 70805 ZIP code but also will sweep as much of the city as possible, Anny said.
“We are trying to stop and reduce as much crime as we can throughout the city,” Anny said.
City-parish officials have concentrated most of their BRAVE efforts in the 70805 ZIP code. That area — bordered by Airline Highway to the north and the east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west — accounts for 13 percent of the city’s population but 30 percent of its homicides, city-parish officials have said.
As part of BRAVE, city-parish authorities plan to bring in targeted offenders for meetings known as a “call-in.” At the meetings, authorities will tell the offenders they can either drop out of a life of crime and seek help, or continue their ways and face swift, severe punishment.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said BRAVE is modeled after Operation Ceasefire, a gun violence reduction strategy that has proven successful in other cities, such as Boston. He said the upcoming “sweep” is a critical element in implementing the strategy.
“You identify some folks in there ahead of time, and you find out whether they have any outstanding warrants or anything,” Moore said. “You just let them know, here’s the precursor, that we’re eventually going to have this call-in, but we’re going to let you know that we’re here and this is the beginning of it.”
Anny said no definite timetable has been set for the sweep because he is still coordinating arrangements with the Baton Rouge Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.
“We’re going to get as many police entities as possible, and we’re going to do it as soon as possible,” Anny said.
The sweep likely will be performed a week or two before the first call-in, Moore said.
The call-ins, though, keep getting delayed.
Moore said in a speech in June at a Rotary Club of Baton Rouge meeting that call-ins likely would begin in October 2012.
Moore said in a recent interview that his office had hoped to perform the first call-in in December or January, but now is looking to have the first one in February because more details of the BRAVE program are still being worked out. Those details, Moore said, include hiring a juvenile services provider and an outreach specialist to provide the social services offered through the program.
Moore said authorities can move forward with the call-ins and the sweep before having the specialists on board, but that is not recommended by the national Ceasefire model.
“We could really rush it, because we know who we could call in right now, but we’re trying to be strategic about it,” Moore said.
Cecile Guin, director of LSU’s Office of Social Service Research and Development and coordinator of LSU’s role in BRAVE, said it is important to hire the specialists before the call-ins so the social services provided by BRAVE can actually be implemented.
“You can’t call people in and offer them services until you have the service providers in place,” Guin said.
Guin said the juvenile services specialist will serve a role somewhere between a probation officer and a court advocate for at-risk juveniles.
“We don’t want it to be just a law enforcement person,” she said. “Their role will be to monitor, follow up, advocate for, or arrest any of the juveniles in 70805 who are either on probation or parole that are coming out of the juvenile institutions.”
The outreach specialist will guide offenders who want out of crime to the services they need, Guin said.
For now, Moore said, authorities are still gathering information about groups of violent offenders, including names, addresses and criminal histories.
Authorities hope to have all that information compiled into one database at some point so it can be readily accessed by any officer on the street, Moore said.
Authorities have now identified 32 groups of violent offenders they are targeting as part of BRAVE — up from the 20 to 25 groups that had been identified as of June, Moore said.
Moore said the list of groups changes as new groups are targeted and others are either identified as no longer active or are dismantled by law enforcement.
“As we get new ones, old ones go away,” Moore said. “My hope is to do away with them.”
Officials also have scheduled a community cleanup effort Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in 70805 as part of BRAVE, Moore said.
BRAVE officials will partner with local volunteers to clean up three houses and 10 schools in the 70805 area and nearby.
“We’re trying to make a bigger effort in 70805 and just have more than a physical cleanup of trash,” Moore said.