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U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Brandon J. Fremin, right, speaks with Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, left, after a press conference Tuesday, March 6, 2018 where it was announced that a lengthy investigation into an extensive drug trafficking network based in Baton Rouge has resulted in in the return of three grand jury indictments charging 41 separate individuals wiith more than 80 counts of narcotics and firearms-related offenses.

Baton Rouge is joining a handful of cities nationwide in a U.S. Department of Justice program aimed at helping communities fight violent crime more effectively.

Local law enforcement leaders announced their participation at a news conference Thursday, saying they hope the three-year training and technical assistance program — called the National Public Safety Partnership — will have measurable impacts on violence in Louisiana's capital city. The initiative was launched in 2017 and now includes 30 sites across the country.

Officials said some of those cities have already seen dramatic reductions in violent crime, including New Orleans, which is listed as a pilot site. 

One of the requirements for communities to participate is that they've experienced sustained levels of violence exceeding the national average. Federal officials spent the past 18 months completing a diagnostic process in Baton Rouge before announcing the city's acceptance into the program. 

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul called it a holistic approach to fighting crime. He said it will allow various law enforcement agencies to better coordinate their efforts and give local leaders access to nationwide experts. 

"It's clear to me that this jurisdiction is already off to a strong start … largely attributable to the leadership of Chief Paul," said Jon Adler, director of the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, during the news conference at Baton Rouge police headquarters Thursday afternoon. "I was extremely impressed to see the diversity of law enforcement components in this room: local, state, federal. … I am personally extremely confident that the federal resources going into this initiative couldn't be better spent." 

Adler said he's impressed with Paul, describing him as "an innovative, open-minded, forward-thinking leader."

Officials said the U.S. Department of Justice has already spent $14.9 million on the program, which provides training and other resources to participating communities, but does not award them grant money.

Baton Rouge was one of nine cities that have joined the program this year and will participate through 2022. Officials said the program will focus on crimes involving gang activity, illegal gun use, drug trafficking and human trafficking.

They said part of that means building bridges with the public and using a targeted approach to root out the small percentage of residents responsible for the majority of violence.

"This is a great opportunity for the city of Baton Rouge," said Brandon Fremin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana. "We fully expect that the assistance we get from the PSP will bolster our already robust efforts in reducing violent crimes."

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.