A former Baton Rouge police chief and his son are taking aim at crime by providing, free of charge, a $35,000 security and emergency alert system to McKinley High School.
After a series of shootings and homicides near the school this year, the high school principal called Metro Council member Tara Wicker about security concerns. After talking with Wicker, former chief Jeff LeDuff agreed to provide the school with a BluePoint alert system, which he sells with his son Kelly LeDuff.
The system is based around a series of wireless, blue-colored devices that look and work like fire alarms. When they are activated, the alarms notify law enforcement and send out alerts to employees. The text message alert includes a building map, which shows the location of the activation and locations of cameras, which can be monitored remotely from a cell phone.
Wicker said a spike in homicides in Baton Rouge this year has prompted people like the McKinley principal to reach out, causing her phone to ring “off the hook.” Jeff LeDuff also called Wicker after she made a plea for business owners and residents to ensure their security cameras are working.
Wicker, the LeDuffs, business owners and law enforcement officials gathered Monday afternoon for the first of a series of "lunch and learn" meetings where they announced the project.
“Just as important as making sure that every child has a quality education in our school system, we must keep our students and faculty safe,” Adam Smith, associate superintendent of the parish school system, said at the meeting.
The LeDuffs have provided workplace security training and consulting through their company, Open Eyes, for several years, but partnered with the alert system company three months ago to sell the systems to businesses.
While they work with about 30 partners between Texas and Florida, they will install the first system in Baton Rouge at the Ardendale Oaks apartments this week, said Kelly LeDuff. The LeDuffs also manage the emergency alerts for Southern University.
The LeDuffs also announced they will install a system in a home in the high-crime 70805 or 70802 ZIP code areas every time a Baton Rouge business purchases a system. The two ZIP code areas both have the highest number of homicides this year in the city and parish with 18 killings each, according to records maintained by The Advocate.
“We believe in (the technology) and we believe in Baton Rouge,” Jeff LeDuff said. “Listen, we’re a business and we’re going to make money, but we got to put some of that money back into the community.”
So far there have been 76 unjustified and intentional homicides in the city in 2017, which surpassed the previous record for a single year of 75 in 2009, according to Wicker and LeDuff. LeDuff was the chief during the previous record year before he stepped down in 2010.
“I remember what it was like to get up every single solitary day and call those guys that worked for me and say ‘nobody dies today,’” LeDuff said. “We all have to find a solution. Our city is in peril.”