George Pikes, 25, was shot to death in the 6300 block of Cyrus Avenue in Baton Rouge on Nov. 10. The night before, Steven Dixon, 25, was found shot to death in the 6200 block of Blueberry Street, also in Baton Rouge. That same Saturday, Bobby Holliday, 38, who was soon to marry his fiancee, was shot and killed in the 5200 block of Enterprise Street. Also that day, Donald Joseph Jr., 38, was fatally shot in the 1500 block of Curtis Street near Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Four men, relatively young, were all gunned down in four separate shootings in what has been called one of the most dangerous cities in America.
A week later, Paul Leday, 51, a military veteran, was discovered in his driveway on Ritterman Avenue in Baton Rouge, suffering from a gunshot wound. He later died. Also in November, Patrick Lawrence, 46, was gunned down while sitting in his car on Osceola Street in Baton Rouge. Last Wednesday, in two separate cases, three people were shot on North Foster Drive and Rosenwald Road in Baton Rouge. The victims are expected to survive. This past Sunday, a man who was not identified was shot in the 2100 block of College Drive. He also is expected to live. Monday of this week, a teenager was shot in the 1900 block of Kansas Street and died Tuesday.
The often mean streets of Baton Rouge are nothing new. The city has seen gun violence for years. Things really got bad in 2016, with homicides shooting up 70% from the previous year. Then in 2017, they skyrocketed up another 50% from 2016. 2017 was a record year for homicides in Baton Rouge, giving the city a higher murder rate per capita than Chicago. Things have settled some in 2018 and this year. But Baton Rouge is far from where it should be.
According to the personal finance website, WalletHub, Baton Rouge ranks as the most dangerous city in America in 2019 in the category of “Home and Community Safety.” Baton Rouge ranked dead last out of 182 American cities surveyed. WalletHub used criteria such as murders and thefts per capita to determine rankings. The organization also surveyed citizens on how safe they felt walking alone during the day or night in their cities.
New Orleans has traditionally been considered Louisiana’s most dangerous city. Eighteen people were shot in The Big Easy since Sunday morning as of this writing. For Baton Rouge to rank more dangerous than New Orleans is an unwelcome distinction for the capital city. New Orleans ranked 170 out of 182 cities when it comes to “Home and Community Safety,” according to WalletHub.
The cities ranking more dangerous than New Orleans were Birmingham, No. 171; Memphis, No. 172; Tucson, No. 173, Anchorage, No. 174; Orlando, No. 175; Washington, D.C., No. 176; Little Rock, No. 177; Philadelphia No. 178; St. Louis, No. 179; Detroit, No. 180; San Bernardino No. 181, and Baton Rouge, No. 182.
WalletHub ranked Jackson, Mississippi, No 166; Shreveport, No. 147; Mobile, No. 119; Houston, No. 117, and Gulfport, No. 91. Lake Charles, Lafayette and Alexandria were not listed in the survey. Yonkers, New York, was listed as the safest city in America, according to WalletHub.
It’s difficult to know how accurate these types of surveys are. They often tell us what we already know. Baton Rouge and New Orleans can be dangerous places to live and work. When bullets fly as often as they do in Louisiana’s two largest cities, there can be no denying the obvious. Our state and city leaders need to do a better job of protecting citizens from gun violence.
Violence is down nationwide, and the same is true for Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We’ve seen a considerable reduction in homicides over the past couple of years. Maybe we’re heading in the right direction. We can hope.
But for the close to 20 people either shot or killed recently in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the gun violence problem is far from a small matter. For them and their families, it’s a life-changing or life-ending proposition.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.