For the first time in at least nine years, a calendar month passed in Baton Rouge without a murder when February came to an end on Saturday, law enforcement authorities and researchers said.
There were no murders in all of East Baton Rouge Parish in February, although there was one fatal shooting described by police as accidental.
Killings determined to be accidental, justifiable or negligent are not classified as “murders” under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting standards, which most law enforcement agencies use to define what counts as a murder for statistical purposes.
The murder-free period lasted for 35 days, beginning on Jan. 25, the day after Brooke Ashley Crawford was found shot to death off Gracie Street, until March 1, when Eddie Simon Jr. was shot to death in his front yard off 73rd Avenue. Simon’s death occurred just hours after February ended.
Law enforcement leaders and LSU researchers who study local crime data expressed cautious optimism about the absence of a murder in February.
“It does seem quite unusual, especially when you consider there was a spike in homicides during the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015,” said Elizabeth Winchester, who analyzes crime data as part of LSU’s Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Research Team. “But I think it’s hard to draw any conclusions from a one-month period. As much as we might want to see this as the beginning of a longer trend, only time will tell if the decrease in homicides will be sustained.”
Just as the number of killings has decreased in East Baton Rouge Parish over the past few years, so too has the number of murders in the first two months of 2015.
So far, including the March 1 death of Simon, there have been seven homicides this year. That’s one less than the eight posted at this point last year, according to homicide statistics compiled by The Advocate.
But in the first two months of 2013, there were 11 murders, and in the same period in 2012, there were 12, which is the same year when the total number of murders in the parish nearly crept into the 90s, stats compiled by The Advocate show.
The number of parishwide murders has declined every year since then, dropping into the low to mid 60s the past two years.
Hillar Moore III, the parish’s district attorney, said February marked the first month since he took office in 2008 that there were no murders in the parish. Moore also said the 35-day stretch without a murder was the longest such period he could recall.
“Although pleased,” Moore said, “we understand that we have a long way to go.”
Moore said February marked the first time since March 2006 that the Baton Rouge Police Department did not record a murder, ending a stretch of 107 consecutive months — a month shy of nine years — with at least one murder per month.
February and March 2006 are the only two months the Police Department has not recorded a murder since Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Moore said.
But because the Sheriff’s Office investigated two murders in March 2006, according to a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, the parish as a whole hasn’t seen a month without a murder since before Katrina made landfall.
“I feel the reduced homicide numbers for the month of February are a direct result of the involvement of the public in assisting law enforcement with information we need to target the criminals in their neighborhoods,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said in a statement through a spokesman. “With this information, we are able to position our officers in areas where they can be the most effective.”
Dabadie credited increased cooperation between law enforcement, researchers and the community as a whole, particularly the groups involved with BRAVE, as contributors to the continued decline in area murders. Moore, too, stressed the collaboration among those groups and others, including church leaders and medical responders, as contributing factors to the “zero homicide month.”
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the February results show how the entire community has banded together to reduce violent crime in the parish in recent years. Gautreaux also described any stretch of time without a homicide — particularly a month — as encouraging.
Echoing the sentiments of other local law enforcement leaders, Gautreaux said, “hopefully that trend will continue.”
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