Baton Rouge police have embraced a targeted approach to fighting crime — focusing on individual street corners and addresses — during an initiative this summer that resulted in several hundred gun and drug arrests.
Department leaders announced the results of "Operation Pinpoint" at a press conference Friday morning, saying they used technology to map out problematic places across the city, in particular areas where reports of shots fired are most common.
"We've been very specific on the areas and locations and people we're targeting," Deputy Chief Robert McGarner said. "We don't go in a neighborhood and do a 'zero tolerance' policy because it doesn't work at all. You can't arrest your way out of this."
The approach McGarner described has been gaining traction among law enforcement experts and agencies nationwide in recent years. It moves away from larger saturation patrols targeting entire neighborhoods or ZIP codes, and focuses instead on using data to predict exactly where crimes are most likely to occur, then sending officers into those places.
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Studies show that illicit activity is not distributed evenly throughout communities but highly concentrated in small areas. The same goes for people: 3 to 6 percent of residents are responsible for the vast majority of Baton Rouge crimes.
Experts say the targeted enforcement model allows police to lock up criminals without harassing their neighbors, which in turn improves community relations.
"Focus is the key aspect," said David Weisburd, a professor of criminology at George Mason University who has spent decades studying where crimes occur and why. "One of the great failings of police agencies is focusing on a whole neighborhood and saturating all the streets. People in that neighborhood now feel like they live in a police state, even though there's probably only a few streets where crime is occurring."
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul has touted his department's increased use of technology to inform where officers should patrol and when. He said Friday that those efforts are making the city safer, citing decreases in property crimes and violent crime, including homicides.
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"Operation Pinpoint" resulted in 127 guns being confiscated, 19 of which were stolen, and large quantities of drugs. Paul thanked officers in the department's street crimes and narcotics divisions for their efforts.
"The most alarming thing to us is the number of firearms that they were able to get off the street between May and August," McGarner said. "It pains me to know we have that amount of weapons out on the street, and where they're coming from we don't know. But we're doing the best we can to alleviate that problem."
Officials said the techniques and resources used during the initiative will continue at least through December.
The announcement Friday came amid a spike in Baton Rouge gun violence that left four people dead in six days this week following a relatively peaceful summer. Paul said detectives are investigating those recent killings but pointed to the larger trend for 2019, which shows homicides are down compared to this time last year.
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