Baton Rouge law enforcement, community and human services leaders met Wednesday with academics from the National Network for Safe Communities, beginning a partnership aimed at decreasing youth gang violence and domestic violence in the capital city.
Representatives from the New York-based John Jay College of Criminal Justice shared their violence intervention framework, hoping to jump-start the same strategies used in the now-defunct BRAVE program — which Baton Rouge leaders hailed for years as a success before its disgraced end in 2017 and have since revived in the Truce program — but also to pilot a revolutionary way to address domestic violence offenders.
"Today we felt a lot of energy in the room: 'Let's get this started again,'" said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III. He said having the "big brother" oversight and constant advice from the National Network for Safe Communities will be instrumental in the programs' success — as long as the city is able to raise the $150,00 a year for their consultation. Moore said he is confident he will be able to secure that funding.
Five years ago, an unusually bloody summer forced Baton Rouge leaders into a scramble to stem a homicide rate that was outpacing Chicago's.
“The basic structure that has worked all over the country is to focus on that small number of exceptional people, to get law enforcement and community folks and social service providers in the right alignment with that high-risk population, to engage with them in a sustained and effective way," said David Kennedy, who led the workshop Wednesday and founded the National Network for Safe Communities. Kennedy said he shared with Baton Rouge leaders the success of Oakland, California, a city that has achieved considerable decreases in violence through a BRAVE-like model, but one that took a few attempts to sustain the success.
Moore said it was key to get Baton Rouge's current leadership in the room to understand the crime-fighting techniques, because many of those officials, like Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, were not serving during the height of BRAVE in 2014 and 2015.
Following the end of Baton Rouge's anti-gang program BRAVE last year, criminal justice leaders announced Thursday that they are launching a ne…
“What I really appreciate from this program and Mr. Kennedy’s comment and his team is the inter-relatedness … of social issues with crime," Broome said. "We cannot ignore those issues if we’re going to resolve the crime in our community.”
Both violence intervention strategies, focusing on gang members or domestic abusers, incorporate social services into the solution. Representatives from 100 Black Men, Capital Area Human Services and probation and parole joined law enforcement officials in the day-long workshop Wednesday.
But with homicides on the rise in the city, Paul was clear that this approach doesn't give criminals an easy way out; it is just more targeted.
“This isn’t soft on crime," Paul said. "It’s just harder on that small group of individuals that’s responsible for the majority of violent crime that occurs in the city of Baton Rouge.”
After 14 domestic violence-related homicides in East Baton Rouge in 2017, a record high for the parish, national researchers came to the Capit…