Researchers: EBR violent crime down overall, but up near LSU

Violent crime fell over the past year in many East Baton Rouge Parish neighborhoods notorious for frequent shootings and robberies, but rose in some communities near LSU, according to researchers with the Baton Rouge Violence Elimination Project.

BRAVE officials touted the violence-reduction program during a presentation at LSU’s Journalism Building on Thursday, crediting increased law enforcement cooperation and concentrated community-building efforts with reducing the city’s violent crime and homicide rates from 2012 to 2013.

“We are making a difference,” Mayor-President Kip Holden said.

Still, squashing violent crime remains a slippery, ongoing project.

The implementation of the BRAVE program began in 2012 with $1.5 million in federal grant funding budgeted for reducing violent crime among young people, particularly youths entrenched in gangs in the 70805 ZIP code in north Baton Rouge.

Since then, violent crime in many 70805 neighborhoods has dropped, according to research summaries presented Thursday.

For example, in the “Brookstown” neighborhood — bordered generally by Airline Highway to the east, Prescott Road to the south, McClelland Drive to the west and Hollywood Street to the north — researchers measured some of the steepest declines in violent crime relative to the parish, one summary says.

Exact violent crime numbers weren’t included in the summaries.

However, areas near Mohican-Prescott Crossover and Istrouma, also in 70805, experienced bumps in violent crime from 2012 to 2013, the summaries say.

To the south, a conglomeration of neighborhoods — including the Garden District but also portions of communities north of Government Street, west of South 15th Street, south of Interstate 10 and east of College Drive — saw “a sharp increase in the number of violent offenders” in 2013, according to a research summary.

It also said a jump in arrests occurred near Brightside Drive, Stanford Avenue near Perkins Road and the neighborhoods between LSU’s northern border and West McKinley Street.

Ray Mack, former president of the Garden District Civic Association, and the group’s board member in charge of security, said Thursday if crime has gone up in the neighborhood, he hasn’t been made aware of it.

“Everything has been reasonably quiet,” Mack said, outside of two armed robberies and an isolated attempted kidnapping in 2013.

It’s possible the increase occurred primarily in areas surrounding the Garden District, because the researchers lumped the neighborhood in with a much broader swath of communities. The Garden District is officially bordered by Government Street to the north, South Eugene Street to the east, Broussard Street to the south and South 18th Street to the west.

So far in 2014, at least five men have been killed in the 70802 ZIP code, the region for which BRAVE received a $1 million federal grant in 2013 to further concentrate violence reduction services.

Comparatively, the 70805 ZIP code has recorded only one murder thus far this year, according to homicide statistics compiled by The Advocate.

In addition, at least four men have been killed in other areas of the parish.

Some of the killings this year appear to have ties to people involved in gangs, or less-sophisticated “groups,” said District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who has said the groups lack the sophistication of organized gangs.

Editor’s note: This story was modified on Feb. 28, 2014. The BRAVE program began in 2012 with $1.5 million in federal grant funding, not $1 million. The Advocate regrets the error.