Anti-violence group prepares for first meeting with subjects
“The message has to be consistent and everyone has to understand what the rules are and what our response will be to criminal behavior.” hillar moore iii, district attorney, East Baton Rouge Parish
The Baton Rouge Violence Elimination project is almost ready to hold its first meeting with targeted offenders in the 70805 ZIP code.
Staff from the University of Cincinnati and representatives from the Cincinnati Police Department will be in Baton Rouge during the second week of November to help BRAVE partners pinpoint who to invite to the meeting, dubbed a call-in, said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
The experts also will train BRAVE partners on how to conduct the meeting, Moore said.
After that, Moore said, BRAVE should be prepared for its first call-in which generally speaking is a meeting at which authorities will present offenders with two options — swift and severe punishment if they continue to commit crimes, or change their ways and seek help to better their lives.
If the offenders choose the former course, members of two BRAVE patrol teams will find them, arrest them and put them in jail.
“From what we read and what we are told, it (the call-in) has to be a well-organized and scripted meeting,” Moore said. “The message has to be consistent and everyone has to understand what the rules are and what our response will be to criminal behavior.”
More importantly, Moore said, the right people have to be invited to the meeting. They will “set the tone” for the future and the success of BRAVE, an anti-violence program that uses statistical data to target criminals and employs tactics to try to change their behavior, he said.
BRAVE initially will focus on violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the city’s 70805 ZIP code. 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.
Researchers with LSU have been gathering data on criminals in the area for the past few months and will present that information to the team arriving from Cincinnati, including Robin Engel, director of the University of Cincinnati Policing Institute, Moore said.
Engel and the others will use that data and information they obtain in interviews with Baton Rouge police officers and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputies to help BRAVE partners decide who to invite to their first call-in, which could be conducted later this year or by the beginning of next year.
“We are gaining momentum,” Moore said. “We are getting real close.”
Another step BRAVE partners recently took to help prepare them for the group’s first call-in was a half-day training session with members of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission.
Representatives from the commission talked to BRAVE stakeholders on Monday about how to begin a homicide review process, which is used to examine the underlying cause of homicides and identify recommendations for improving the community’s response to violence.
Milwaukee began the review process seven years ago in three of seven of its police districts, said Mallory O’Brien, director and founder of the commission. After just two years, killings in the three study sites declined 52 percent compared with only 9 percent in the control areas.
The review process has since been expanded and now covers both fatal and nonfatal shootings throughout the entire city, O’Brien said.
“Once you get people sharing information you start seeing trends and points of intervention,” she said. “You also get people thinking differently about how to do their jobs.”
Milwaukee District Attorney John T. Chisholm said he has gotten “tremendous buy-in from all sectors of the community” and that “everyone understands that before you change things you need to study them.”
He said the review process has helped him change the definition of successful crime fighting.
“It’s not how may people you arrest but how safe you make the community,” he said. “We have to start thinking about how we can interrupt acts of violence.”
Recommendations made by the review commission have helped do that in Milwaukee by initiating the creation of a child advocacy unit, a family peace center, a drug treatment court and deferred prosecution programs, Chisholm said.
“It’s done a lot of good for our community,” he said.
Moore said he would like to start a similar review process in East Baton Rouge Parish, beginning in the 70805 ZIP code.
Moore said the homicide review process will complement the data that LSU is collecting on violent offenders in the area.
“We learned a lot from just the two case reviews we did in the half-day training session,” Moore said.
“We now know that we have to rely more heavily on the offices of corrections, juvenile justice and juvenile services for information.”
Moore said he will have to rely on volunteers from the private sector and area universities to implement a consolidated version of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission in East Baton Rouge Parish until money can be raised to fund a full-fledged homicide review commission such as the one in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee program has an annual budget of $500,000.
Matthew Lee, a researcher with LSU who is working on the BRAVE project, said he is optimistic that the university will be able to make progress on the review process since they would initially be focused only on the 70805 ZIP code.
“It is a labor intensive project, but it’s important because it tells you what kind of homicides we are dealing with,” Lee said. “That data can then be used to decide what to focus on in the community to try and prevent these crimes.”