Violent crime in Baton Rouge dropped a bit last year, reflecting a generally steady decline locally and nationally in homicides, rapes and robberies over the past several years.
Nevertheless, homicides in Louisiana’s capital city ticked up by a few, according to crime statistics released Thursday by the Baton Rouge Police Department, even though the parish as a whole recorded a marginal decrease from 2013 to 2014.
The increase in murders in the city — from 49 in 2013 to 53 in 2014 — plus a 10 percent bump in aggravated assaults, which include many attacks categorized as batteries in Louisiana, serve as pointed reminders that there is plenty of room left for improvement.
“For sure, we want to see decreases in all categories of crime,” said Lt. Herbert “Tweety” Anny, the BRPD officer who has served as director of the BRAVE anti-crime program since its inception in fall 2012. “We will just try to press harder and get more community involvement. That’s the key.”
Since 2012, there’s been a 20 percent drop in homicides parishwide. Anny says maintaining that level highlights BRAVE’s continued success.
Overall, the crime statistics, reported annually to the FBI by law enforcement agencies across the country, reflect the progress the city has made in reducing violent crime. Nevertheless, Baton Rouge remains more violent than most other cities of comparable size in the U.S.
Homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults occur about half as often as they did five years ago. And even though aggravated assaults — defined by the FBI as unlawful attacks by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury — rose from 1,030 in 2013 to 1,142 in 2014, robberies declined by a larger margin, from 974 to 852.
“We can’t attribute one particular action taken by us that either increased or decreased the numbers,” said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman. “But we try to make sure to do everything that we can do to deter crime.”
According to crime statistics released by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, which generally serves the unincorporated areas of the parish, murders in its jurisdiction decreased, falling from 14 in 2013 to 10 in 2014.
The Sheriff’s Office also reported a 30 percent decrease in robberies and a 5 percent decrease in aggravated assaults. The robberies fell from 227 to 159, while the assaults dropped from 112 to 106.
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said he is pleased with those reductions even though property crimes increased slightly.
“We want to always continue to improve our strategies to try to stay ahead of crime,” Gautreaux said, citing early education and outreach to the community, especially children, as a prime means of achieving further progress in violent crime deterrence.
“As law enforcement, we are going to continue to do our part,” Gautreaux said. “But our efforts are short-lived without the participation and backing of the community.”
While both the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office reported an uptick in arsons since 2013, last year’s totals were either similar to or lower than arson totals from earlier years for both agencies.
Curt Monte, a Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman, said because fires can be set intentionally for many reasons — insurance fraud, domestic violence or as a cover up for another crime, to name a few examples — it would be difficult to pinpoint the cause of last year’s increase.
“We haven’t noticed anything that we consider alarming or out of the ordinary,” Monte said.
Hillar Moore III, East Baton Rouge Parish’s district attorney, said significant reductions in violent crime were easier to achieve when the city-parish most recently began to focus on the issue with BRAVE. Although he’s pleased with the lower parishwide homicide total being maintained, he said, challenging work remains to further curtail violent crime in the capital city area.
“It’s a daunting task,” he said.
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