East Baton Rouge Parish’s murder count remained high at the end of August, with 11 more people killed compared with the same period in 2009, a record-setting year for homicides, according to statistics compiled by The Advocate.
The number of people killed between January and August this year climbed to 73, which is 17 more than the 56 people who were slain during the same eight months last year. In 2009, the number of killings reached 62 by the end of August on the way to a record of 88 by the end of the year.
Fourteen of this year’s killings, or 19 percent, occurred outside the city limits and are being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office. That is just one fewer than all of the homicides the Sheriff’s Office investigated in all of last year.
Investigators with the Baton Rouge Police Department have handled 58 homicides so far this year, which is 15 more than during the same time frame last year and one more than they were investigating in 2009.
Authorities with the Baker Police Department are investigating one killing this year.
The motives for most of the killings are unknown.
Those for which police were able to establish motives include 11 people were slain in domestic-related incidents. Three of those 11 slayings were murder-suicides; two involved children.
Twelve people were killed during fights, four were slain in drug-related incidents, three were killed during an armed robbery and one was killed in a shootout, according to law enforcement authorities.
Eighteen killings happened in the ZIP code 70802, nine were slain in the ZIP code 70805 and six died in the ZIP code 70807. The remaining homicides occurred in other ZIP codes throughout the parish.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he is “very disappointed” that the number of murders in the parish “continues to rise despite our traditional efforts and methods of attacking this problem.”
Most homicides in the area arise from “nonsense and arguments over disrespect,” Moore said. Disputes about drugs and other things account for many of the others.
Affecting group behavior is critical, Moore said, and is one of the main reasons the city-parish applied for a grant to implement a popular gun violence reduction strategy locally dubbed the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project.
In preparation of implementing BRAVE, city-parish leaders have met with a national expert in the strategy, David Kennedy of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice and director of the National Network for Safe Communities, as well as with other experts from Milwaukee and, most recently, Cincinnati, Moore said.
Leaders also are in the process of mapping crime data and will soon begin a review of homicides and non-fatal shootings to better identify the reasons behind each killing, Moore said.
The main thing they need to do for BRAVE to work, however, is “to speak in a clear moral voice,” Moore said. “ Together we must emphasize that violent behavior is not acceptable and that the community is working with law enforcement to ensure that it stops.”
Moore said he is encouraged by progress the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office BRAVE teams have already made but understands “these are strategies that will take some time to begin seeing real success.”
Police Chief Dewayne White said he believes the number of murders in the area will go down if “we get at the core of the problem,” which includes poverty, lack of education, poor role models and a sense of helplessness.
The police chief said law enforcement also has to “disassemble groups of people who glorify the criminal way of life.”
“Many of them believe they don’t have anything to lose,” he said. “A lot don’t think they are going to live beyond 25.”
The city-parish is on the right track with BRAVE and the Family and Youth Service Center, which has put representatives of many social service and law enforcement agencies under one roof, White said.
While such programs try to target the root causes of violence in the community, White said a select group of officers are working overtime most nights to catch violent offenders.
Sheriff Gautreaux said his office will continue to use “aggressive, innovative enforcement couples with community outreach and education,” to combat crime.
He said the office also will continue to analyze call volume and crime statistics to allocate resources appropriately to address crime and its rook causes.
“I think community policing is a great marriage of enforcement and outreach,” he said.