Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said Friday he was troubled by a recent spike in deadly shootings, and that in response to 10 homicides in two weeks he has directed more than 40 administrative officers to help with patrols.

"In the past seven days, we've seen a 20 percent increase in shots fired in our city," Paul said Friday, two days after a triple-homicide along Gus Young Avenue. "And the 10 homicides that have happened, ... this month of November has us concerned.”

Detectives have made an arrest in only one of the recent killings.

Paul said that, after the latest shooting, his staff reassigned 42 administrative officers to assist with uniform patrol and the department's Street Crimes Unit. He said those new patrols will focus specifically on areas crime analysts have found to be "hot spots" for violence. The agency has not increased its number of homicide detectives.

“Ten bodies in 15 days is unacceptable,” said Deputy Chief Robert McGarner, shaking his head. “Y’all have our undivided attention. … This makes no sense whatsoever.”

McGarner said the heightened and targeted policing will focus on the less than 6 percent of residents who officers believe are responsible for the majority of the city's violence. But he and Paul also called on the rest of the city to do their part as well. 

"Don't give up, don't stop calling," Paul said. "We need family members, loved ones to step forward. If someone has communicated their intent to harm someone, we’re asking you to call us. Give us the opportunity to intervene.”

Paul said when they get tips about planned violence, his officers have been able to step in and prevent potentially dangerous scenarios. He urged the community to stay invested in building a safer city, pleading for residents to not give up after they were so key in a relatively peaceful summer. 

November's homicide spike contrasts sharply with data from the previous months. In October, there was only one homicide — an anomaly that has only occurred nine times in the past 10 decades, according to BRPD data — and Paul called this past summer one of the safest "in the history of Baton Rouge." Notoriously the most dangerous time of year, Baton Rouge only recorded 13 homicides in all of June, July and August. That's only three more than the first half of November, with still much of the month to go.

The deaths in Wednesday were the result of a quadruple shooting outside a convenience store. Paul said officers do not have a motive or suspect in that shooting or the other unsolved homicides from November. 

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However, Paul did say that his investigators do not believe the recent homicides are connected. He said they believe a large portion of them are drug-related and a few could be retaliatory, in response to prior, unrelated incidents. He also said detectives do not believe these killings are group- or gang-related. 

"We've looked at these homicides and we haven't found any commonality," Paul said.

Seven of the 10 victims this month were age 30 or older, above the age of a typical homicide victim in Baton Rouge. Paul said he was not sure what is causing that, but reiterated that officers are considering all possibilities and continue to explore all leads for suspects. 

The only killing where police have arrested the perpetrator was in the death of kindergartner Jaheim Holliday. The 6-year-old was shot while playing outside on Nov. 2 in his Northdale neighborhood just north of Memorial Stadium, when, police say, a 13-year-old shot him in the head.

Paul also mentioned that almost half of November's homicides occurred inside a home or in a yard, showing that much violence will occur despite a police presence. 

"Our police officers are out there doing their jobs," Paul said. "The issues that are related to violent crime start at home. It begins in our failures, ... when love, respect and civility are no longer common practice in our community."

Despite this recent spike in crime, Paul said he is still optimistic that 2018 will end on an overall positive note. This year's homicide count still sits significantly below 2017's record of 106 unjustified and unintentional killings. So far 75 homicides have occurred in East Baton Rouge Parish since the start of 2018, according to unofficial records maintained by The Advocate.

And looking at the number of homicides that have been cleared by detectives — either by an arrest or after a suspected perpetrator's death — the percentage is still above last year's rate, The Advocate's record's show. At the end of 2017, BRPD solved just under 50 percent of homicides and 2018's the clearance rate hovers at 53 percent. However, before the start of November and the latest homicides, BRPD detectives had solved 60 percent of 2018's homicides, an improvement Paul has continued to tout. 

Paul also mentioned that after this deployment of more street officers, the department has another operation planned to begin Dec. 1 using data and technology to direct policing through the end of the year, in concert with many of its local partners, including the U.S Attorney's Office and State Police. 

“We cannot reach a point in this city where we become desensitized to the violence. That is unacceptable," Paul said. "We have to do better than that Baton Rouge. But we have to stay in this fight, united."


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.