BRPD: Violent crimes decrease in first 6 months of 2013

Murder and violent crimes declined sharply in Baton Rouge in the first half of 2013 compared with the first half of 2012, while property crimes also saw a decline, albeit not as drastic, according to Baton Rouge Police Department statistics released Monday.

The stats, released in conjunction with the department submitting them to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, showed an overall decrease of more than 13 percent in crime during the first half of 2013 compared with the first half of 2012.

“Obviously we’re encouraged by the numbers; we feel like many of the programs we’ve been putting in place are starting to pay off,” Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said.

“But we know there’s still much work to do and we will continue to partner with the community to do everything possible to see these numbers keep dropping.”

Murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and assaults — classified as violent crimes — are down nearly 25 percent while property crimes — theft, burglary, auto theft and arson — are down by nearly 11 percent, stats show.

Police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola Jr. said the Baton Rouge Area Violent Elimination Project and police street operations aimed at curbing violent crime are big factors in reducing the crime numbers.

“What it comes down to is hard work by the men and women in our department,” he said.

“When you’re more proactive, there’s more of a chance to stop the crime before it happens. With the numbers showing a decrease, it appears that what we have been doing shows that it has been working, as of now.”

LSU criminologist Ed Shihadeh said he is very surprised to see the numbers drop as much as they did.

“Frankly, these are amazing numbers because there are very few cities that are able to drop their crime rates this much in such a short period of time,” he said.

The fact that violent crime decreased more than property crime is the most shocking aspect of the statistics to Shihadeh because he said property crimes are usually easier to prevent.

He also said that linking law enforcement with social services is being realized as a way to bring crime numbers down — Shihadeh called it a “carrot and stick approach” — and that strategy is working in Baton Rouge.

“People are fed up with crime and they are taking the extra mile,” he said. “There is a real desire to work collectively to reduce crime. Word is getting out that this is a really bad time to be a criminal.”

Homicides dropped by more than 23 percent, robberies decreased almost 20 percent and burglary dropped more than 16 percent.

Those three areas of crime, especially homicides, are good barometers when it comes to gauging violent and property crime in an area because there is no real wiggle room on the part of law enforcement in classifying them and people tend to report them more than other crimes.

But not all the numbers were good, as rapes increased by 20 percent and auto thefts increased by less than 1 percent.

Racheal Hebert, executive director of the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center, said she believes the increase in rapes is due to more people reporting, not necessarily an increase in rapes.

Increased media coverage of sexual assaults, both locally and nationally, erases some of the stigma associated with a sexual assault victim, she said.

“The more that they see it occurring in their community, occurring across the nation and people coming forward without so much judgment, the safer they feel reporting it to us and the police,” Hebert said.

Shihadeh, who analyzes data at LSU for the BRAVE Project, said the only downside to the statistics released Monday is that they will be hard to top.

“We’re gonna be battling our own success next year,” he said.