In conjunction with Baton Rouge’s latest crime-fighting initiative, some local pastors are working with ministers from across the country to tackle crime among Baton Rouge’s youth.
A group of pastors was visiting the city Wednesday are members of People Improving Communities Through Organizing, or PICO, a national network of faith-based organizations.
The visiting pastors are consulting with local clergy on how to communicate effectively with residents of high-crime areas, Herring said.
“We look at this as an extraordinary benefit for Baton Rouge, to have not only this assistance for the community, but to also have them work hand in hand with local law enforcement to create a model program in Baton Rouge,” he said.
The clergy met Wednesday with representatives from the Mayor’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Baton Rouge Police Department, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
The pastors are on a 10-city tour to develop gun violence-reduction strategies based on Operation Ceasefire, which has helped reduce violence in cities such as Boston and Chicago, Moore said.
“This Ceasefire model has worked in many other cities,” Moore said. “It’s important for us to learn from those that have already done it and been successful.”
The pastors also met the five Baton Rouge police officers who form the community policing unit of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE, Herring said.
The Rev. Jeff Brown, who co-founded the TenPoint Coalition in Boston in 1992, has held several workshops with Baton Rouge pastors, Herring said. He was unable to visit the city this week but visited in July 2011.
The name “TenPoint Coalition” comes from a 10-point plan developed to battle crime in Boston, Brown said in a telephone interview.
Brown said the TenPoint Coalition’s philosophy of convincing youth to stay away from violence, as well as forming relationships with law enforcement, didn’t just help reduce violent crime — it reduced complaints against police in Boston.
That differed considerably from an approach in New York City, Brown said, where the focus primarily was on law enforcement. That approach diminished violent crime in New York City, he said, but led to a “skyrocketing” increase in complaints against police.
“In Boston, we had a reduction of that (complaints against police), and we continue to have relatively low numbers of that,” he said.
Brown said the pastors in Baton Rouge seem to understand his message.
“It’s a daunting task to be able to confront your fears around violence and get out into your own neighborhoods,” he said.
The Rev. Thomas Bessix, head pastor of New Gideon Baptist Church, said Brown taught him the importance of being honest with residents in high crime areas in order to earn their respect and trust.
“It was very practical,” Bessix said. “It was what many of us may have already had some understanding of, but it still opened our eyes to hear it come from him.”
Robert Stewart is a general-assignment reporter for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.