Researchers at LSU plan to move forward with crime data-mapping efforts as part of Baton Rouge’s latest crime-fighting plan even if the city-parish’s application for a $1.5 million federal grant is rejected, LSU administrators said Wednesday.
Matthew Lee, a sociology professor and LSU’s associate vice chancellor for research and economic development, said LSU is “committed” to helping law enforcement track crime trends as part of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE.
“LSU is going to do whatever it can to provide support for the BRAVE project, even if it’s not funded (by the grant),” Lee said.
Lee’s comments Wednesday came during a brief meeting with reporters at which he and sociology professor Edward Shihadeh discussed LSU’s role in BRAVE and social ills that cause crime, such as poverty and lack of education.
LSU began two months ago researching crime data provided by local law enforcement agencies, said Cecile Guin, director of LSU’s Office of Social Service Research and Development and the coordinator of LSU’s role in BRAVE.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said the grant is integral to funding the research aspect of BRAVE, but that the city-parish will move forward with the project regardless. He said LSU would not be able to sustain its research efforts without the extra funds, and the analysis would not be as effective.
“If we get this grant money, they could do all kinds of mapping and social network mapping, as opposed to just basic research,” he said.
Guin also said LSU’s ability to analyze crime data would not be as strong without the federal funding.
Guin said the grant would allow the university to hire outside experts, in addition to LSU doctoral students, to analyze the statistics. She said LSU already has the equipment it needs.
“It (the grant) pays for a very sophisticated statistical and analytical analysis of the crime problem and where the crime is moving, if it’s moving, what’s the motivation for the crime,” she said.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council has already set aside $150,000 for BRAVE, which will go toward paying for staff support and surveys that LSU will perform, Moore said.
If the city-parish does not receive the federal grant, the District Attorney’s Office likely will return to the council with a request for more money, Moore said.
The city-parish expects to learn in September whether it will be receiving the federal grant, Moore said.
BRAVE is modeled after Operation Ceasefire, a violence intervention plan that has been successful in reducing violent crime in cities such as Baltimore, Boston and Chicago.
BRAVE will deploy five police officers dedicated to the 70805 ZIP code to earn trust of the area’s residents. That area — bordered by Airline Highway to the north and the east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west — accounts for 13 percent of the city’s population but 30 percent of its homicides.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office has also dedicated 25 deputies to the project.
BRAVE also is designed to identify repeat offenders in the city responsible for a large portion of the crime, Moore has said.
Law enforcement agencies have identified 20 to 25 people in Baton Rouge who they plan to target for “call-in” meetings, where officials will lay out the options facing them: swift and severe punishment if they continue to commit crimes, or changing their ways and seeking help to better their lives.
Law enforcement agencies have sent over information from arrest records, such as names, addresses, and locations of arrests and calls for service, to map the social patterns of accused criminals, Moore has said.
“We’re in the beginning stages of getting the relevant data from law enforcement and beginning to bring different statistical analysis techniques to those data to help inform the operational aspect of law enforcement,” said Lee, the LSU associate vice chancellor.