Research, data focus of project
By Kimberly Vetter
Advocate staff writer
September 07, 2012
The bulk of a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant to run a nationally acclaimed anti-violence program will be spent on research and data analysis conducted by LSU, officials said at a Wednesday news conference formally announcing the grant approval.
Members of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project will use the research and data analysis to identify the people they want to target, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden said.
Using data from law enforcement, LSU researchers will create a Top 10 violent offender list, said Matthew Lee, associate vice chancellor of the university’s office of research and economic development.
Researchers also will use “cutting edge geographic and spacial analytical techniques” to determine where and when crimes are occurring on a daily or a weekly basis, Lee said. Those techniques also will be used to track long-term crime trends, he said.
The most technical research will involve data collected from a detailed review of homicide and nonfatal shooting incidents, Lee said. The information will help researchers identify social networks of criminals and which ones are most likely to be volatile, he said.
“Acts of violence don’t happen in a vacuum,” Lee said. “They occur in a social context.”
BRAVE is designed to break up such networks using the same group violence reduction strategies that have been successfully used by Operation Ceasefire programs in cities such as Boston and Los Angeles, Holden said.
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 communicate three messages:
- Any future violence will be met with clear, predictable and certain consequences.
- A moral message against violence by the right community representatives.
- An offer of help for those who want it.
BRAVE initially will target violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the city’s 70805 ZIP code, Holden said. 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 traditionally 30 percent of its homicides.
“In recent months, BRAVE project organizers have met with many different organizations across Baton Rouge in their attempt to focus on ZIP code 70805,” Holden said. “As a result, the BRAVE project now has support not only from law enforcement and local government, but also from the faith-based community, business and industry, social service and nonprofit organizations, and the academic, educational, and recreation community.”
Remaining grant funds will go toward such support, Holden said.
The money will fund caseworkers and resources to provide substance abuse, mentoring and job training to 25 youth a year who choose to leave crime behind, the mayor said.
Grant money also will pay for support staff for BRAVE Director Herbert “Tweety” Anny to maintain grant records and conduct media and community outreach, Holden said.
As the mayor held his formal announcement of the grant award Wednesday, the political wrangling continued with an opponent in this year’s mayoral race over who deserves credit for the grant. Metro Councilman Mike Walker disputed Holden’s statement on Tuesday that Walker played no part in securing the federal funds.
Walker, who serves as the council’s chairman and is challenging Holden in the Nov. 6 election, said Louisiana’s congressional delegation deserves the credit for the $1.5 million grant award. But Walker said he took the initiative and reached out to the delegation and sought their help.
“It didn’t take a lobbyist. It didn’t take a press conference,” Walker said. “All it took was for someone like me to pick up the phone and ask for help — just like when I asked Metro Council members to appropriate $150,000 of the mayor’s slush fund to start the BRAVE Project.”
Walker, in April, proposed the Metro Council use part of a discretionary fund it took over from Holden for seed money for the BRAVE program. Holden’s administration had asked the council to use the fund for a lobbyist as originally budgeted, saying the mayor’s office already had plans to give BRAVE $250,000.
The council ultimately rejected the administration’s pleas and voted to allocate the money from the discretionary fund.
Holden made no mention of Walker at Wednesday’s news conference but pointed out several people, primarily East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who he said were responsible for making the BRAVE grant happen.
“Building a strong team required working together and that takes discipline, trust and a commitment to working for the greater good of the community and not for individual glory,” Holden said. “This is not a political issue although it may be played out in the political arena. It is a matter of public safety.”
Advocate staff writer Rebekah Allen contributed to this report.