Despite the current spike in Baton Rouge gun violence that has claimed six lives in less than two weeks, the homicide rate has fallen significantly in recent months, leaving authorities confident that 2018 won't see a repeat of last year's unprecedented numbers.
A new crime fighting initiative in Baton Rouge is positioning itself to address gun violence from the ground up, hoping to change the culture …
The homicide rate in 2017 was the highest in recorded history for East Baton Rouge Parish — even surpassing Chicago's — as more than 100 people were killed, the vast majority of them shot to death.
Law enforcement officials were quick to acknowledge the problem and pledge what resources were available to combat it. But authorities also stressed the importance of help from the community, reminding the public that police can't solve the city's crime problem on their own.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul and other department leaders have since credited the public with helping authorities achieve a positive impact on violent crime. They're hoping that trend will continue during the final weeks of 2018 and beyond.
So far this year 71 people have been killed in what authorities consider intentional and unjustified homicides across the parish, according to Advocate records. Those numbers could change if investigators later rule some incidents unintentional or justified.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, 87 people were killed in 2018.
The total for 2017 was 106, which easily toppled the former record of 96 homicides in 2007 and presented an alarming increase of 70 percent over the 62 homicides counted in 2016.
Paul, who took office in January, called a press conference in August to emphasize a drop in violent crime over the summer — typically the most violent months. Department leaders pointed to a decrease of more than 60 percent in homicides compared to summer 2017. They also touted improved clearance rates, which brought the department well above the national average of around 60 percent during those months when killings were down.
The summer of relative peace followed a more violent start to 2018. Thirteen people were killed in May, which saw the highest monthly total so far this year and seems to have marked a turning point. July and August then saw three and four homicides respectively. And September's number rose to nine before falling drastically to just one in October.
But deadly gun violence is up already this month as six people have been killed since the beginning of November. That includes kindergartener Jaheim Holliday. The boy was playing outside with his friends and siblings Nov. 2 when one of the other children pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. Another fatal shooting occurred two days later and claimed the life of Ketron McDonald, 22, who driving on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge when someone from a passing vehicle shot into his car. No arrests have been made in connection with that shooting.
With more than six months under his belt leading the Baton Rouge Police Department, Chief Murphy Paul is thanking the public for its role in h…
Baton Rouge police Deputy Chief Robert McGarner described the recent spate of killings as "one of those anomalies that gives me gray hair." He and other law enforcement leaders are optimistic that this year's homicide rate — when calculated at the end of December — will nonetheless reassure Baton Rouge residents whose cries of alarm were heard loud and clear following 2017's unprecedented violence.
McGarner said he's confident the overall downward trend will continue "if we don't take our foot off the accelerator." He said the department has been "policing better and smarter," sending out proactive patrols into neighborhoods with increased reports of violent crime. But McGarner said cooperation from the public is also key.
"What the department is doing and what the community is doing have to go hand in hand," he said. "It's not just us … it's offense and defense. We're successful when we're able to work together."
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III commended the new police chief for his efforts to connect with residents and build trust between his officers and the public.
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Moore noted that the decrease in homicides over the summer coincided with events hosted by the nonprofit Truce program, which replaced the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program after federal funding ended last summer. Truce is following in BRAVE's footsteps with its mission of targeting potential gang members and showing them an alternative to violence.
Moore also mentioned the social disorganization theory, which he has often raised as a possible explanation for 2017's uptick in violent crime following the difficult summer of 2016 when Baton Rouge experienced the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling and subsequent protests, the deadly ambush on law enforcement and then the August floods. Those challenges could have created a chaotic social environment that spurred the violence in subsequent months.
But Moore said it's possible that now — more than two years after the region and its law enforcement agencies faced a series of traumatic events — the effects are finally wearing off.
Earlier this month, 6-year-old Jahiem Holliday died as the victim of a shooting. The alleged shooter was a 13-year-old. I have been unable to …