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Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome reflects on the legacy of Dr. King during a celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in partnership with the Baton Rouge Branch of the NAACP on Monday, January 16, 2023 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

WASHINGTON – Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome discussed ways to address crime with mayors from major cities around the nation during a whirlwind trip this week to the nation’s capitol.

She spoke on two panels at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, attended meetings with the National League of Cities, and was named vice-chair of the Mayors Alliance to End Childhood Hunger, a nonpartisan coalition working in partnership with the national nonprofit Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry campaign.

Broome then huddled in a corner of the Capitol Hilton with fellow members of the African American Mayors Association.

She shared crime fighting notes with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Atlanta Mayor Andre D. Dickens, Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Oneda Jones.

“We have work to do because one murder is one too many,” Broome said in an interview Thursday before heading back to Baton Rouge.

They discussed body cams, police training, more civic involvement in law enforcement, and how well-publicized incidents gin up public concerns and pressure actions that may not improve the crime situation.

Statistics show crime is decreasing after spiking in 2020 and 2021. A deeper dive into the data shows more specifics that can better suggest crime fighting programs that have impact, she said.

Baton Rouge showed a 21% decrease in homicides and a 21% increase in felony arrests during 2022, Broome said.

“Reality is reality,” Broome said. “If we don’t start using the data to inform what we do (to fight crime), then it’ll only lead to more problems with worse results down the road.”

Broome lately has been buffeted with criticism, often from family members of murder victims, after high-profile homicides.

That’s a situation Broome’s fellow mayors share.

Broome spoke the day after the Crime Prevention Research Center released a report saying about 73% of all murders in the U.S. took place in 5% of the nation’s counties.

"Murder isn’t a nationwide problem," according to the study based on interpretation of the FBI’s 2020 Supplementary Homicide Report data. "It’s a problem in a small set of urban areas and even in those counties murders are concentrated in small areas inside them, and any solution must reduce those murders."

The group’s leader, economist John R. Lott, criticizes gun control and argues that everyday citizens need access to automatic weapons and to concealed carry permits. The report got considerable attention in the nation’s conservative media.

Fox News interviewed family of murder victims in Philadelphia. That city's Mayor, Jim Kenney, pointed out that statistics are showing an overall decrease in violent crime. Fox News kept a banner reading “Democrat-led cities hit all time homicide records” throughout its report.

On the other hand, the Brennan Center, which is part of the New York University law school, found in a study released last month that murders had jumped 30% between 2019 and 2021 in larger cities. Their statistics show that “red” states, like Louisiana and Mississippi, saw some historically high murder rates.

Brennan said it’s too early to draw conclusions but multiple studies indicate that pandemic shutdowns, increased substance abuse problems coupled with dramatically more gun ownership, all share culpability for the spike in numbers.

Broome said Baton Rouge already follows a lot of the best practices, such as community involvement in the hiring of top police officials. She plans to outline more ideas in a state of the city report set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Goodwood Library.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.