We hope that a new program aimed at reducing violent crime in a particularly troubled part of Baton Rouge proves successful. Violent crime anywhere in the city threatens the quality of life everywhere in the city. We cannot simply write off certain high-crime areas of Baton Rouge as lost causes. Tolerating crime anywhere in Baton Rouge creates a climate in which crime can thrive elsewhere, even in neighborhoods where the crime problem is less obvious.
Mayor-President Kip Holden announced the launch of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, which will target violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the 70805 ZIP code. Although the area contains only 13 percent of the city’s population, it’s where 30 percent of the city’s homicides and 40 percent of Baton Rouge’s gun assaults occur, Holden said. The area also generates a fourth of the Police Department’s calls for service.
Modeled on similar programs in other cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles, the program announced by Holden concentrates law enforcement and social services resources in a troubled areas. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said that in addition to the city-parish government and local law enforcement agencies, various faith-based institutions, businesses, social service agencies and nonprofits have also pledged to help with the program. Moore said he believes that violent crime in the city can be reduced by as much as 15 percent, although he added that attaining those results will take time.
We were heartened by the presence of Holden, Moore, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Police Chief DeWayne White at a news conference announcing the launch of the program. We hope the united front they presented for news cameras is an indication of sustained and substantive collaboration across agency lines. That kind of cooperation is critical in making an initiative such as this one successful. We also were encouraged by White’s pledge to make a greater effort to develop trust between police officers and residents in the 70805 ZIP code.
“We have to build a bond of trust with them in order to combat the crime that is going on there,” White said.
This anti-crime program won’t meet its potential if everyone isn’t on board. Ultimately, the most important players in reducing crime in the 70805 area will be the residents themselves.