Fighting violence in Baton Rouge used to mean law enforcement flooding problem areas with patrol cars, employing a zero-tolerance approach.
The difference now, Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Tuesday evening at an anti-violence forum, is troublemakers have a better opportunity to change their ways.
“Here’s what we’re offering you,” he said. “We’re offering you a way out.”
The panel discussion, put on by the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project and Forum 35, aimed to educate residents on BRAVE’s efforts to address violent crime in the capital city.
About 30 people attended the forum at the downtown Family Youth Service Center, where BRAVE officials and city-parish authorities said the program has helped cut down on the bloodshed.
“Law enforcement has never come together in the way we are now,” Dabadie said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the success of BRAVE depends on law enforcement building trust in the community, building a presence — not just at crime scenes.
“We’re out there every day walking the streets to let people know we truly care about each and every individual,” he said. “We’re not going to be here today and gone tomorrow.”
Gautreaux cited the Gardere neighborhood, long known as a problem area, where deputies now patrol daily on bicycle and rely on community policing.
Capt. Rodney Walker, of the Sheriff’s Office, knocks on doors in the neighborhood every day to gauge residents’ concerns and check in with teens targeted in the program.
When put on BRAVE’s watch list, offenders are given the following choices: enroll in the program, which provides mentoring and job placement services; ignore the program and avoid future arrests; or continue to misbehave and suffer stricter sentencing if they are convicted of a crime.
“Unfortunately, not everyone takes to the service,” Dabadie said.
Teens are flagged for BRAVE surveillance when they are implicated in a violent crime.
Assistant District Attorney Aishala Burgess said she and her colleagues keep a list of offenders who come through the court system, with the law enforcement officials working to target the possible associates.
Juvenile Court Judge Adam Haney said BRAVE then uses peer pressure to squash violence.
“They’re saying: ‘Don’t pick up that gun, because if you do something stupid, I’m going back to jail,’ ” he said.
While panelists said they have more work ahead of them, they agreed BRAVE has cut down on violence in Baton Rouge.
“Is it the best thing? I can’t tell you that,” Gautreaux said. “But I can tell you it’s the best thing we’ve seen so far.”
Follow Matt McKinney on Twitter, @Mmckinne17.