The new Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project may start off slowly, but once it is fully under way, “results come pretty rapidly,” retired High Point, N.C. Police Chief Jim Fealy told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
Fealy and District Attorney Hillar Moore III discussed the program with members of the public and the Press Club at the club’s regular Monday luncheon.
“But to be real cautious, we have to tread lightly, and we have to move very, very slowly,” Moore said. “We have to make sure everything’s done the right way, not the fast way,” Moore said.
The project will target “bad actors” in Baton Rouge’s 70805 ZIP code, which has a disproportionately high violent crime rate, Moore said.
Fealy oversaw implementation of the a similar program in High Point, which he said one of the most violent cities in North Carolina at the time.
Baton Rouge looks “a lot like what High Point looked like” several years ago, Fealy said.
High Point, with a population of about 104,000 people, saw a 54 percent drop in violent crime over 14 years, despite a 39 percent increase in population, he said.
Fealy, who has been hired as a consultant to help Baton Rouge implement the BRAVE project, said he has faith in the program.
“This stuff works,” he said.
BRAVE’s methods are modeled after group violence reduction strategies that have been successfully used by Operation Ceasefire programs in other cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles.
The premise behind Operation Ceasefire, according to program literature, is that crime can be dramatically reduced when law enforcement, residents and social service providers engage with the street groups and gangs to reduce crime.
Those principles are based on a medical model, Fealy said.
“This is triage,” he told the Press Club, adding that the 70805 ZIP code “is bleeding the worst.”
According to records compiled by The Advocate, there have been 46 murders in East Baton Rouge Parish in 2012. Six of those have been in 70805 ZIP code and 11 have occurred in the neighboring 70802 ZIP code, Advocate records show.
The project attempts to “use every tool in the toolbox,” including community involvement and offering help to those who opt to participate, he said.
Through criminal records and statistical studies, authorities will summon the “bad actors” in a specific area for a community meeting with a promise that they won’t be arrested. During that meeting, three presentations will be made, Moore said.
The first will be by law enforcement, who will inform those who come in that they are being closely monitored. The second presentation will be from community members and leaders, especially pastors, which will reinforce the first message, Moore said. The third presentation will be by a group of community partners, who will share their commitment to reducing violent crime in the community.
Authorities hope to expand the program into neighboring areas, such as the 70802 ZIP code, Moore said.