Sheriff Sid Gautreaux implored the crowd at Tuesday’s meeting of the newly formed Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish to get involved in the fight against crime.
“We all have a part to play if we are going to turn this around,” Gautreaux said to the more than 75 people who attended the chamber meeting at Café Americain on Jefferson Highway. “Law enforcement cannot do this alone.”
The sheriff encouraged his audience to focus its efforts on young people, especially young black men, since they make up the bulk of the area’s violent crime victims and perpetrators.
Gautreaux said many of these young people have told him that their future is either in prison or six feet under ground.
“They firmly believe that,” he said. “It’s like they have a mind set that they are living in a Third World country and absolutely have no opportunities.”
That mind set, the sheriff said, is the result of being raised in a broken home, dropping out of school and not being involved in church. Some of the only influences these people have is the music they listen to, the programs they watch on television and the people they meet on the streets, Gautreaux said.
“They aren’t hearing the right messages,” he added.
To try and change the messages these young people are hearing, people in the community need to get involved, whether it be through mentor programs or the sponsorship of such programs, the sheriff said.
“Each and every one of you is a role model,” he said. “You have such a wide influence on the people around you.”
Harold Williams, a member of the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish, said the group is partnering with the Louisiana Business Community and Alliance to host a month-long equestrian academy for children between the ages of 8 and 14 who live in the inner city.
Twelve children will be selected to participate in the academy, which will take place once a week in August and will focus on the fundamentals of horseback riding, Williams said.
Project Ride, a ministry working with inner-city children, will provide the horses and the trainers, Williams said. Chamber members will provide additional services needed to run the program.
“We hope this will provide something positive to the community,” he said.