‘Hot spots,’ ties to gangs factored into formula
LSU researchers have developed a formula to rank the Capital City’s most violent criminals, assigning them a composite score to show police where their resources are being drained.
Officers are weeks away from being able to call up this data during regular patrols, said Ed Shihadeh, an LSU criminologist who is leading the research behind the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination crime-fighting project.
“We like it at the patrol level where an officer pulls someone over and looks on the screen and sees this is the 34th or this is the ninth most violently active person in Baton Rouge,” Shihadeh told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club at its Wednesday luncheon.
“I think they need to know that.”
Higher scores are assigned to criminals who tend to strike in “hot spots” — areas with the heaviest concentration of violence — and during peak crime hours, which researchers have found to be between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. during the week.
Additional weight is given to crimes believed to be related to one of the 42 known street gangs in Baton Rouge.
The federally funded BRAVE initiative has sought to identify and deter gangs because they are so frequently linked to the fatal shootings and retaliatory killings that have fueled the city’s homicide rate.
“We want to keep an eye on these people,” Shihadeh said. “There’s no ethnicity or race or religion or anything on this list. It’s a score that’s based on what kind of crime you’re committing.”
The scores are based on thousands of records, including calls for service, arrest records and other sources that Shihadeh declined to disclose.
“The spirit of the composite score, from our end, is to look at those individuals that are straining the resources,” he said.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said law enforcement officials will be meeting with Shihadeh and his research team in the coming weeks to determine how the data may best be put to use. The plan is for officers to be able to review the information on their laptop computers.
“This is brand new,” Moore said. “They need to get the feedback from the officers on the street.”
The scores also are being used to compile lists of gang members to be invited to “call-in” sessions, meetings in which law enforcement officials offer resources — and a stern warning — to youths considered most likely to commit future crimes because of their gang affiliation or violent history. BRAVE officials have hosted one call-in so far involving some 40 youths and are preparing for a second session.
In his address to the Rotary Club, Shihadeh described the call-ins as a “come to Jesus moment” in which gang members see “pictures on the wall of people who have died, and there’s the mothers of those dead people sitting there in the room.”
“We tell them, ‘Look, this is not a sermon. In two years you’re going to be in jail or you’re going to be dead,’ ” he said.
Shihadeh said about 25 percent of those who attended the first call-in in April took the offer of help.
He did not mention that one of the attendees, Trevor Georgetown, was booked with first-degree murder weeks later in a fatal shooting that prompted authorities to arrest nine of his fellow gang members.
Shihadeh’s address came on the heels of a particularly violent week in East Baton Rouge Parish, in which four people were slain and another man was in critical condition after being shot several times.
Authorities here have repeatedly touted the success of the BRAVE initiative, crediting it with reducing the city’s murder rate by some 30 percent over the past year.
“This is a good start, but it has to continue,” Shihadeh said. “We have to continue to support this financially and with human power even after the funding for BRAVE ends.”