BRAVE program to branch into broader territory

While the much of the focus for the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project will remain on the crime-plagued 70805 ZIP code in Baton Rouge, city-parish officials say they plan to begin implementing lessons learned there to the neighboring 70802 ZIP code.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Friday the federal grant application process required officials to pinpoint the part of the city-parish where the money and law enforcement efforts were needed most, which was in 70805.

Last year, 14 people were killed in the 70805 ZIP code, an area generally bordered by Airline Highway to the north and east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west. That ZIP code has on average seen 20 homicides a year for the past three years.

Twenty-three people were killed last year in the neighboring 70802 ZIP code, which is bordered by Choctaw Drive to the north, the Mississippi River and Nicholson Drive to the west, LSU to the south, and North Foster Drive, North Street and Park Boulevard to the east. That made 70802 the ZIP code with the most killings last year.

Moore said 70802 ranks second to 70805 in overall crime in Baton Rouge.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati analyzed crime data for the city and recommended officials focus attention on criminal activity in 70802, Moore said. He said officials wanted to do that but were held back by a lack of finances.

“The grant is for 70805 and the money we have has to be devoted to 70805, and if we don’t pay attention and keep our foot on 70805, it’s going to jump back up again,” Moore said.

Officials at LSU are working on two Smart Policing grants that would provide money for crime-fighting initiatives in 70802, Moore said.

Scott Dyer, spokesman for Mayor-President Kip Holden, said city-parish officials will also submit a grant application, similar to the original, to bring BRAVE into 70802.

Moore said if the city-parish does not receive grant money for 70802, officials will employ the same strategies that have worked in 70805, just “without the bells and whistles.”

Officials identified the Gardere, Scotlandville and Glen Oaks as other areas to potentially bring in BRAVE or aspects of BRAVE that are critical to efforts to reduce violence, Moore said.

“The only way you can get the grant is if you not only offer swift justice for folks that will commit offenses, but on the other hand also give swift and adequate resources for those who want to opt out of a life of crime,” Moore said.

“You don’t want them to re-offend,” Moore continued. “You want to try to help them with whatever deficiencies they have that is the reason they jump off into crime and that is the main tenant of the grant.”

Moore said three contracts outlining how some of the $1.5 million federal grant already received for the BRAVE project will be used will be presented to the Metro Council for introduction on Wednesday. Two are for counseling and treatment services and one is for LSU researchers to perform data analysis.

The council will vote March 13 on whether to authorize Holden to enter into the contracts.

The three contracts will be three-year deals and will total $948,062, or about two-thirds of the federal grant money the city-parish received.

Despite receiving U.S. Justice Department approval for the grant in December, city-parish officials still had to submit the framework for the contracts and get separate approval for them, Dyer said, which the city-parish received only a few weeks ago.

The first contract, for $187,500, would be with Capital Area Human Services to provide substance abuse and behavioral health counseling to people, specifically youths, referred by the BRAVE officers working in the area. The treatment would include inpatient or outpatient care, medication, detox treatment and mentoring services.

The second contract, for $201,870, would be with Healing Place Church Serve to offer educational, career and job assistance for at-risk youth.

The final contract, for $558,692, would be with the LSU Board of Supervisors to conduct research in social network analysis, crime analyses, GIS mapping, the coordination of homicide reviews and a group audit and the overall project evaluation that would include extensive data collection.

Dyer said when city-parish officials were planning BRAVE, a work group of law enforcement and governmental officials chose to contract out services to the Capital Area Human Services District and Healing Place Church Serve because those organizations were already working with troubled youths and others in 70805 before BRAVE.

According to the grant application, besides the three contracts set to go before the council, most of the remaining $551,931 has been allocated for other contracts with local organizations to provide community outreach and mentoring services — a contract worth $195,000 for a senior juvenile services specialist, a contract worth $75,000 with Hope Ministries for job assessment, career and family mentoring, and a contract worth $42,000 with the Louisiana Sports Network for sports mentoring.

The remainder of the grant money will be spent on salaries, supplies, travel costs, consultant expenses and indirect and miscellaneous costs, according to the grant application.