When Sheriff Sid Gautreaux talks to the public about the root cause of crime in East Baton Rouge Parish, he brings up his “triangle analogy.”
The analogy, he said, represents the forces that shape a person’s character.
Growing up, the sheriff said, the base of his triangle was his home. One side was his church, and the other side his school. Surrounding that triangle, Gautreaux said, was a “circle of influence” composed of his faith in God, the music he listened to, the movies he watched and the positive role models he emulated.
From all directions, he was getting the same message: “Right over wrong; good over evil; do the right thing no matter what the cost.”
Gautreaux said that when he didn’t abide by that message, “there were consequences.”
Such positive influences don’t exist for many of the violent criminals in the community, Gautreaux said.
“The home is broken at best,” he said.
“And it’s typically run by a single mother or grandmother who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet to put a roof over their head and food on the table,” Gautreaux said.
School and houses of worship aren’t relevant in their lives, the sheriff said, because many people involved in violent crime don’t attend classes or religious services.
What is relevant in their lives, he said, is “that circle of influence:” the music they listen to, the television they watch, the people they hang around.
The message they receive from that circle is not “thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, I am my brother’s keeper, love my neighbor as myself,” the sheriff said.
What they hear is “you want what he’s got, you go get your gun and go get it,” Gautreaux said. “He’s disrespecting you, you go get your gun and kill him.”
“That’s the attitude, and they believe it,” he said.
To try to change the attitude of some criminals, Gautreaux said, his office couples aggressive law enforcement strategies with community outreach.
He said he has challenged deputies at each of his office’s five substations to plan a community outreach event each year.
His deputies also routinely conduct warrant roundups, narcotics stings and targeted patrols, he said, adding that he assigned 25 deputies to work on the Baton Rouge Violent Elimination Project, a new plan targeting the area’s worst crime hot-spot.
In addition, Gautreaux said, inmates at Parish Prison, whether they are there for a day or a year, are exposed to “as much rehabilitation as possible.” The sheriff said he has added a faith-based wing to the prison as well as several self-help and life-skills programs.
“We have to do everything in our power to address the root causes of crime,” he said. “But law enforcement can’t do it alone.
“People in the community have to get involved. We all have a part to play if we are going to turn this around.”
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