By Kimberly Vetter
Advocate staff writer
September 05, 2012
Mayor-President Kip Holden and his main rival in the race for mayor this year, Metro Councilman Mike Walker, took turns on Tuesday announcing that Baton Rouge will be receiving a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant to run a nationally acclaimed anti-violence program.
Shortly after Walker sent an email out Tuesday to Metro Council members and a reporter saying that Sen. David Vitter’s office had advised him the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE, grant was approved, Holden issued a statement through an aide confirming the city-parish will be receiving the funds.
“We were notified that we will receive funding by the Justice Department last Wednesday when we were working along with our law enforcement partners to stand our city and parish up against Hurricane Isaac,” Holden said in the statement.
He said he planned to announce the grant award at a news conference Wednesday that will include District Attorney Hillar Moore III, Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
“We will have a press conference tomorrow with the team that actually did the work on the BRAVE project to talk about our steps going forward,” Holden said Tuesday. “When you see the team that is working together tomorrow, it will be very clear who worked successfully to get the grant for BRAVE, and it was certainly not Mike Walker.”
Walker, who has focused his campaign on crime prevention and control, said he is not trying to take credit for the grant approval but believes the letters he asked Louisiana’s congressional delegation to write in support of BRAVE helped.
“Thank them, not me,” Walker said of the delegation, which submitted letters of support to the Justice Department. “I don’t want the credit, I just want the money.”
In April, Holden and Walker sparred over initial funding for BRAVE.
Walker placed an item on the Metro Council agenda to appropriate $150,000 from a council-controlled discretionary account to launch BRAVE, while John Carpenter, the mayor’s then-chief administrative officer, said Holden was planning to allocate $250,000 to the same anti-violence program.
Carpenter instead asked the council to use the discretionary fund dollars for a lobbyist contract, as had been originally proposed in the mayor’s budget for 2012. The council rejected Carpenter’s request and unanimously agreed to fund BRAVE with its own money.
The goal of BRAVE, Holden has said at previous news conferences, is to target violent offenders as well as drug offenders in the city’s 70805 ZIP code. That area — bordered by Airline Highway to the north and the east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west — accounts for 13 percent of the city’s population but traditionally 30 percent of its homicides.
BRAVE will implement the same group violence reduction strategies that have been successfully used by Operation Ceasefire programs in cities such as Boston and Los Angeles, Holden said at the conferences.
The premise behind Operation Ceasefire, according to program literature, is that crime can be dramatically reduced when law enforcement, residents and social service providers engage with the street groups and gangs to communicate three messages:
- Any future violence will be met with clear, predictable and certain consequences.
- A moral message against violence by the right community representatives.
- An offer of help for those who want it.
Holden has said the $1.5 million grant will go toward violent crime research and data analysis, caseworkers and support staff.
Moore has said the grant is integral to funding the research aspect of BRAVE, but that the city-parish would move forward with the project regardless. He said LSU would not be able to sustain its research efforts without the extra funds, and the analysis would not be as effective.
Moore said Tuesday that he “is excited to hear about the news that we received the BRAVE grant” and hopes to provide more information about the project at Wednesday’s news conference.
White said the grant “gives us the resources to implement the BRAVE playbook,” which identifies the city’s worst offenders and either locks them up or gives them a chance to be rehabilitated.
“This grant, no doubt, will turn the tide of violence in East Baton Rouge Parish,” the chief said. “The people of this community will see violent crimes drastically reduced.”
Gautreaux said the grant will force law enforcement and city-parish leaders to “put up or shut up.”
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “Change isn’t going to happen over night.”