Significant increase seen in murders outside BR city limits
Ten more people have been slain in East Baton Rouge Parish during the first six months of this year compared with the same time frame last year, according to statistics compiled by The Advocate.
The number of people killed between January and June reached 50 on Saturday.
By the end of June last year, 40 people had been slain in the parish, the same number of people that had been killed by midyear in 2009 when the city reached a record of 75 slayings.
Fourteen of this year’s killings, or 29 percent, occurred outside the city limits and are being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office, which handled one fewer homicide in all of last year.
Detectives with the Baton Rouge Police Department are investigating 35 homicides so far this year, which is five more than they were looking into during the same time frame last year.
Authorities with the Baker Police Department are investigating one killing this year.
The motives for most of the killings are unknown. Nine people, however, were slain in domestic-related incidents. Three of those incidents were murder-suicides. Another two involved children.
Eight people were killed during a fight, three were slain in drug-related incidents, one was killed during an armed robbery and another died in a shootout.
Eleven killings happened in the ZIP code 70802, six were slain in the ZIP code 70805 and five died in the ZIP code 70807. The remaining homicides occurred in other ZIP codes throughout the parish.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said it’s hard to pinpoint why his office has seen an increase in homicides, adding that many of this year’s cases involved illegal activity, such as drugs, and that others were domestic, which are hard to prevent.
“I think it is too early to determine if this is a trend or an anomaly,” he said. “I think only time will tell.”
Regardless, the sheriff said he will continue to use “aggressive, innovative enforcement coupled with community outreach and education” to combat crime.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White agreed with the sheriff in that many of the Police Department’s homicide cases involved people who were engaged in illegal activity. Most of the victims and perpetrators knew each other, he said.
“Homicides committed in our city and parish share a common evolution,” he said. “The deceased had some type of association or affiliation with the offender within the criminal environment, more often than not through either the sale or use of narcotics. And the homicide usually occurs as the final act arising from some conflict between the two. It is rare that we investigate a homicide that doesn’t fit this disturbing pattern.”
The increase in killings, however, is still disappointing, the chief said, and drives home the fact that “it’s going to take time to change the behaviors of some of these young people involved in these killings.”
White and Gautreaux said both of their agencies are engaged in the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, a new violent crime intervention plan aimed at violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the city’s 70805 ZIP code, an area generally bounded by Airline Highway to the north and the east, the Mississippi River to the west and Choctaw Drive to the south.
The roughly 3-square-mile area houses only 13 percent of the city’s population but is where 30 percent of the city’s homicides and 40 percent of Baton Rouge’s gun assaults occur, the mayor said. The area also generates 25 percent of the Police Department’s calls for service.
The 70802 ZIP code borders the hot spot and sees its fair share of crime as well. This year, it’s seen more homicides than the 70805 ZIP code.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the homicide figures for the first six months of this year show that no area is immune to such violence.
“It’s not just an inner-city problem,” he said.
Moore said the high number of domestic cases proves that more needs to be done at the early stages of these types of cases.
He said his office has worked hard during the past few years not to drop domestic violence charges at the request of the victim. He said he gets about 100 such requests a week and that only about 1 percent are honored.
White said his department is tracking the most violent domestic violence offenders and is asking judges to increase their bail amounts when they are jailed.