Our Views: EBR murders rise in 2013

The death toll from murders in East Baton Rouge Parish totaled 83 in 2012 — two more than the 81 homicides reported in the parish in 2011. Those grim numbers are a reminder that violent crime is a continuing problem in Baton Rouge, and this issue should be a concern for Baton Rouge residents from all walks of life.

The Advocate recently published names and photos of the 2012 murder victims with brief accounts of how they died. Scanning the pictures and death narratives offered tangible proof of a grim and commonly understood reality. Most of the murder victims were young black men caught up in the morally bankrupt drug culture of the inner city.

That shouldn’t make the loss of life any more bearable for residents of Baton Rouge. The loss of human life should always be regretted, regardless of the circumstance. Nor should the concentration of violent crime in Baton Rouge’s poor, black neighborhoods lead other Baton Rouge residents to assume that violent crime isn’t their problem, too.

Violent crime anywhere in Baton Rouge compromises public safety everywhere in Baton Rouge. Left unaddressed, such criminal activity promotes a culture of lawlessness that threatens all of the city’s neighborhoods.

One bright spot in Baton Rouge’s murder tally for 2012 was an apparent decline in murders in the last half of last year — perhaps a result of a new crime prevention program aimed at Baton Rouge’s most violent neighborhoods. Last year, local law enforcement officials joined forces to inaugurate the Baton Rouge Violence Elimination project.

Modeled on similar, successful efforts in other U.S. cities, BRAVE uses a mix of incentives and deterrents in attempting to steer offenders away from lives of crime.

After a recent lull in murders, there were three murders within a five-hour period. Such apparent victories and setbacks suggest the tough slog ahead for local law enforcement officials. To prevail, these first-responders will need the help of local churches and civic groups, as well as the cooperation of residents throughout the parish.

We look forward to the day when The Advocate requires less space to record the deaths of local murder victims. We hope that next January, readers will see fewer faces of lives cut short in 2013.