BRPD reports major crime down 7.4 percent in 2013

Continuing a more than decade-long trend, crime in Baton Rouge decreased in 2013 from 2012, with violent crime dropping 15 percent, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Baton Rouge Police Department.

The Uniform Crime Reporting numbers are submitted to the FBI, which combines them with statistics from 18,000 other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to paint a picture of crime in the country.

Overall, major crime in Baton Rouge dropped 7 percent in 2013 from 2012, with violent crime — homicides and non-negligent manslaughters as well as robberies and assaults — dropping 15 percent. The exceptions were rapes, which went up 16 percent, and negligent manslaughters, which increased 67 percent.

Property crime — burglaries, thefts, auto thefts and arsons — dropped 6 percent.

Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, said they believe several initiatives — such as the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, operations aimed at taking drugs and guns off the streets, a Special Response Team that works warrants and overtime programs that flood problem areas with officers to try to pick up troublemakers while meeting with residents — are making a difference.

McKneely also pointed to increased community involvement and a stronger relationship between the department and the community.

Baton Rouge police investigated 13,664 major crimes in 2013 — 2,132 violent and 11,532 property crimes — compared to 14,755 major crimes in 2012. Of the crimes that year, 2,509 were violent and 12,246 were property crimes.

In 2000, Baton Rouge police investigated 22,100 major crimes, which has dropped steadily over the years, except for a few hiccups.

“The overall news is good and we’re working hard, but we have more work to do,” said Ed Shihadeh, a criminologist at LSU who coordinates BRAVE’s research team.

Shihadeh said the drop is encouraging, especially the decrease in violent crime in the city, which he attributes to the crime-fighting techniques employed by law enforcement, including BRAVE and the Baton Rouge police street operations.

Shihadeh said the drop in overall violent crime is expected once the number of homicides decreases.

“Murder is really the tip of the violence iceberg,” Shihadeh said. “If murder is going down, then you know some of the other stuff is going down. If you’re looking at murder dropping, you’re looking at robberies dropping, you’re looking at assaults dropping.”

The statistics are just for Baton Rouge and do not include crime data from Baker, Zachary, Central or the unincorporated parts of the parish.

The fly in the ointment is the increase in reported rapes for the second straight year as well as the department’s overall crime clearance rate, which dipped below the national average.

Some people see the increase in reports of rapes as a good thing.

“More people are actually reporting the crime; it’s not so much that more crimes are occurring,” said Racheal Hebert, executive director of the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center.

She pointed to the high-profile case of Saints player Darren Sharper — who has been charged in rapes in two cities, had an arrest warrant issued for him in New Orleans and is being investigated for alleged assaults in two other cities.

“What you’re seeing is a change in culture in that people are more likely to believe victims and more likely to advocate for them,” Hebert said.

The department’s clearance rate for crimes overall in 2013 was 17.2 percent, short of the national average, as reported by the FBI, of 20.7 percent.

Also, Baton Rouge’s clearance rate dropped from 2012, when it was 18.6 percent.

“We wish it could be better, we hope it could be better,” McKneely said, “but at the same time, we’re working day and night … attempting to solve those cases.”

Police reported clearing 53 percent of homicides and non-negligent manslaughter cases in 2013, but that number includes cold cases cleared as well as the homicides that occurred that year.

Police cleared four of the five negligent manslaughters, more than 50 percent of the reported rapes, more than 40 percent of the assaults, more than 30 percent of the robberies and more than 10 percent of the reported arsons, burglaries and thefts.