Officials hope to add after-school programs
Funding for the oldest crime-prevention district in Baton Rouge is up for renewal Oct. 19 and, if approved, district officials are hoping to use the funds in a holistic approach to crime prevention.
Officials with the South Burbank Crime Prevention and Development District in the Gardere area want to use the funds not only for additional patrols, but for other programs and projects that might help in curbing crime, especially crimes committed by juveniles.
“What we are doing now is looking at a holistic approach to crime prevention,” said Carlos Padial Jr., vice president of the district.
The fee for the district — $100 per residential or commercial building and $25 per unit in a residential or commercial building with four or more units or in a condominium — generates about $190,000 a year.
“For that amount of money, I can swear to you that dozens of lives have been saved,” said Tom Hanlon, a former district president and current district board member, of the fee, first approved in 2005.
The Oct. 19 proposition says the money will be used to increase security in the district by hiring off-duty law enforcement personnel or contracted security personnel to provide security patrols in the area.
Padial said district officials are working with East Baton Rouge Parish deputies to monitor crime and the juveniles Padial said are responsible for the majority of crime in the neighborhood.
But Padial and Hanlon said they are trying to do more with the money than just hiring security patrols.
The money also will go toward community development projects and after-school programs.
They said examples include adding lights to dimly lit areas, trying to clean blight and bringing the Boys and Girls Club and a Catholic sports league to Gardere.
Padial said they decided to bring after-school programs to Gardere because parents want a way to keep their children away from drug dealers and criminals while they are at work.
“That’s the biggest need in Gardere: a safe place for kids to go from 3 to 6 p.m.,” he said.
Padial said they use BREC’s Ben Burge Park on Elvin Drive for programs, but they are looking for property on which to build a $1.5 million facility that would serve their needs for an after-school facility and community center.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said crime is still an issue in Gardere, but it is not as bad as it used to be.
“It’s gotten a lot better,” Hicks said.
Hicks said community participation is a major reason for the drop in crime over the years.
“We often talk about communities stepping up and taking a role in crime prevention, and I think this is a great step toward that,” she said of crime prevention districts. “Any time we can have additional law enforcement protection in our community, that is beneficial. When used in conjunction with law enforcement, crime prevention districts can be very helpful.”
The fee for the crime prevention district first passed in 2005 with slightly less than 60 percent of the vote during a presidential election that drew a high voter turnout, and was renewed in 2009 with about 70 percent of the vote, albeit in an election with low voter turnout, Hanlon said.
Early voting for the Oct. 19 election is scheduled Oct. 5-12, excluding Oct. 6.
The roughly diamond-shaped district is bounded by Bayou Fountain, Elbow Bayou and Burbank Drive to the north, Nicholson Drive to the west, Plantation Road to the south and Pecan Bayou and Bayou Fountain to the east. Plantation Road was previously known as Longview Plantation Road.
Residents in the Meadowbend, Hermitage, Sagefield and Cross Creek subdivisions will not be able to vote on the renewal because those neighborhoods are not part of the district.
The Hermitage and Cross Creek subdivisions used to be a part of the South Burbank District, but broke away and formed their own crime prevention districts about four years ago because they were not satisfied with the law enforcement patrols the district provided.
Subdivisions on nearby Bluebonnet Lane are also excluded from the district.