While there is a great deal of tough talk about Baton Rouge’s new plan for attacking its homicide crisis, the architect of the plan puts a lot of emphasis on the power of one of the city’s poor communities to rally around the program.
The new BRAVE program — Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination — starts off in 70805, the ZIP code area of a few square miles and many shootings over the past few years.
Even in that generally poor and rundown area of town, said consultant Jim Fealy, the community resources that law enforcement hopes to mobilize on its side can be keys to the program’s success.
Fealy, a former North Carolina police chief, and District Attorney Hillar Moore III sketched the program at the Press Club of Baton Rouge. And while there was a lot about law enforcement in the traditional sense, Fealy said that BRAVE’s focus will be on the larger issue of making the neighborhoods of 70805 safer to live in.
Moore said churches and other institutions in the area are integral to the effort, although Baton Rouge Police Chief Dwayne White has already assigned five officers to the area to ramp up the enforcement wing of the program.
The BRAVE plan hopes to use data about offenses, large and small, to identify networks of “bad actors.” That would allow authorities and community leadership to threaten a full-court press if someone in those groups is involved in a violent crime.
That’s the hard power, in which police threaten consequences to the group, not just the shooter.
Yet the soft power of the community is also a key element of focused deterrence, Fealy said, recalling how a poor neighborhood in High Point, N.C., turned around after years of sullen indifference or even anger at the authorities.
“We had to win back the communities we had lost,” Fealy said. After a short time, the effective response to crime brought the community together with its police force, he said.
Moore said part of the BRAVE plan would allow individuals who want to turn their lives around to get help — drug counseling, or job training, for example. It’s not a carrot-and-stick idea, because individuals would still have to deal with their legal issues, but it’s a way for the community to bring pressure on young people to opt out of a life of crime, Moore said.
“Community moral voice, laugh if you will, is a very, very powerful tool,” Fealy said.
We hope so and are glad to see that amplifying that voice is part of BRAVE’s agenda.