If current homicide trends continue, East Baton Rouge Parish is on track for one of its bloodier years yet.
According to statistics compiled by The Advocate, the number of slayings in the parish so far this year is higher than that of any year in recent history.
As of Mondtask of turning around Baton Rouge’s entrenched culture of crime could take many years.
“Unfortunately, I’d like to say things will change dramatically overnight, but that generally doesn’t happen,” he said. “Don’t expect that to happen here.”
One of the first tasks BRAVE calls for is determiningay, homicides had been committed within the parish.
By the same datees on record — 59 people were slain in the parish.
On Aug. 8, Edward Shihadeh, an LSU sociology professor and criminologist, said he was expecting 2012 to set a murder rate record.
“We could end up with between 80 and 90 murders this year (within city limits) and that’s as high as I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “So we need to deal with it and we need to deal with it now. And we are.”
Shihadeh said this year’s numbers bring a heightened sense of urgency to the parish’s new crime-fighting initiative, Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination.
BRAVE is modeled on Operation CeaseFire, a mix of community policing and aggressive enforcement on targeted criminals that has proved successful in reducing violent crime in many cities nationwide, such as Boston and Chicago.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III has been one of the key actors behind the BRAVE initiative.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating to see the numbers this high,” he said. “The way we’re going about doing things right now are obviously not working.”
BRAVE is expected to be in full swing by the beginning of October, Moore said.
Even though Moore said he is confident BRAVE will work, he cautioned that the the driving forces behind the parish’s violence.
LSU researchers are beginning to analyze the motives behind all of Baton Rouge’s homicides and nonfatal shootings in recent years, classifying them into categories such as drug-related, gang-related or cases of domestic violence.
“If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said the majority of murders are gang- or group-related,” Moore said. “But it seems now, over the last six months to a year, the majority of murders have been more drug-related.”
High rates of poverty and unemployment are often cited as factors contributing to the city’s high murder rate. But, Shihadeh said, the uptick in murders over recent years could also, at least in part, be attributed to a spike in teen pregnancies in the 1990s.
He said those children born to teenage mothers are typically more at-risk of turning to criminal behavior than those born to older mothers.
He also said the parish’s high volume of blight and vacant buildings allows criminal activity to flourish.
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Police Chief Dewayne White have repeatedly emphasized tin 2009 — the year with the highest number of homicidhe success of BRAVE will hinge on the community’s willingness to help authorities by calling in tips.
“The only way we’re going to stop all this nonsense,” Moore said, “is the community taking their own community back and cooperating and sharing with us information they know.”
Naomi Martin has covered crime in East Baton Rouge Parish for The Advocate.