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As BRPD Chief Murphy Paul, right, looks over the room, BRPD Sgt. Jim Verlander, left, works in the Real Time Crime Center at the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters Friday Sept. 6, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.

As Louisiana moves into a slow reopening process following what officials hope has been the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Baton Rouge Police Department is utilizing its long-awaited Real Time Crime Center to target violence-heavy neighborhoods.

In a Facebook Live video Friday morning, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and BRPD Chief Murphy Paul toured the facility at the department’s Airline Highway headquarters, which has been Paul’s pet project since he became chief in early 2018.

It was initially scheduled to be up-and-running in late 2019, then it was pushed back to a February 2020 opening, then coronavirus swept the area, further delaying that projected start date.

However, the pandemic and stay-at-home order became of benefit to the center because a dip in crime attributed to fewer people being out in public allowed officers the time to bring the project to light and begin the data analysis that will fuel summer resources.

Paul said Friday that, despite the overall lull in callouts, violent crime is still high in some small geographical pockets that officers have identified using the center’s technology.

BRPD will soon start a targeted operation called “Operation Safe Summer” in which 150 officers from all departments will begin increased presence in designated areas.

He said specifically the Brookstown area — in which this week a man and woman were found killed in their apartment — has been flagged as a “micro-area” on which to focus resources, as well as districts around Plank Road, Airline Highway, Scenic Highway and Highland Road.

Officers have used their crime center data to implement a patrol strategy in the Brookstown area the past eight weeks, Paul said, leading to a 24% decrease in crime there overall.

The Facebook Live video showed a multiscreen analysis center in which officers assigned to the crime center could at once see live traffic cameras, maps with active calls and other analytics to focus efforts. Officers are able to narrow down specifics like car makes and models on camera, colors, if people recorded are male or female, or whether they are a child, for example.

“If you live in one of these areas you will see increased patrols. … The data is driving why we’re there in those areas at specific times and dates,” Paul said.

With the stay-at-home order lifting and residents starting to venture out more, Paul said it’s still to be determined how coronavirus and the usual spike in crime during the summer months will intersect.

Broome stressed that what she called the “coronavirus culture” will still likely be at play throughout the summer, meaning a heightened awareness of social distancing and other similar measures.

“I don’t think we’re going back to normal, what we’re doing is embracing a new reality so we have to think differently,” Broome said as she toured the center Friday.


Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.