With gun crime on the rise, particularly in East Baton Rouge Parish, it’s good to see a larger role for federal agencies.
That’s because federal laws against use of guns in crimes are stiff, and even the dumbest criminal ought to be able to get that message.
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson announced Thursday that federal and local law enforcement will create a new "strike force" aimed at locking up the area's most dangerous criminals while deterring others on that path.
The "Violent Criminal Enterprises Strike Force" will use collective intelligence from several local, state and federal agencies to target the most violent groups in Baton Rouge, then prosecute them with "severe sentences," Amundson said at a news conference. Homicides in the parish are on the rise this year, with 79 killings already in 2017, surpassing each of the last four years of homicide totals and only four behind the number from 2012, which remains the highest annual tally in five years, according to The Advocate records.
"The first principle of law enforcement is deterrence; that is what we seek," Amundson said. "Filling prisons is not our goal; our goal is to prevent crime."
That is good news. Even though violent crime in the city of Baton Rouge most recently peaked in 2012, before dropping considerably for the following three years, any increase means lives lost.
Some of the improvement in recent years was the result of a joint effort by agencies, supported by federal funding, called the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program. BRAVE, though, targeted young gang members involved in crime, focusing its efforts using intelligence about who were the most likely offenders in the parish. That program has now been compromised by questions about how its contracts were awarded and its finances managed.
Part of police intelligence is community commitment, in working with police and prosecutors. So it’s also welcome that Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome convened “call to action” meetings in churches around the parish to help mobilize those efforts.
The mayor is right that "community engagement is of the utmost importance and community input is often the best way to find solutions," but resources also matter.
Additional federal funding is coming, Amundson said, as the new fiscal year began Oct. 1. The strike force commitment goes beyond funding, but ultimately a source of money that pays for more comprehensive sharing of intelligence and its analysis, as with BRAVE, is going to be part of a longer-term solution.