Officials launch new program to help curb violence | Crime
Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden, District Attorney Hillar Moore, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Police Chief Dewayne White announced Wednesday that they are teaming up with juvenile services, probation and parole, social agencies, LSU and the faith-based community to launch a new program to curb violence in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The new Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project will target known violent and drug-trade offenders in criminal hotspots, beginning with zip code 70805 in North Baton Rouge.
A roughly three-mile square area, zip code 70805 has 13.5 percent of the city’s population, but accounts for 25 percent of its total police calls, 30 percent of its homicides, and 40 percent of its gun assaults.
“We are seeking to attack violence and the drug trade in zip code 70805 the same way that a medical team would attack an epidemic of influenza or some other disease,” Mayor Holden said. “We are going to use scientific data to identify the infected areas, then take steps to treat it and keep it from spreading.”
The Mayor said that the BRAVE project will utilize the same Group Violence Reduction Strategies that have been successfully used by Operation Ceasefire programs in cities like Boston and Los Angeles.
BRAVE officials will call in violent criminal and drug-trade suspects into meetings with faith-based and community organizations, who will confront the suspects with their criminal behavior and the collective knowledge of their activities. The suspects will then be advised of the consequences of continuing in their criminal behavior, including severe prosecution and tough sentences. They are also advised about opportunities to abandon their crime lifestyle through substance abuse treatment, job preparation, GED training, and employment.
The project is being launched with $150,000 in city-parish funding that will be used primarily to pay for the services of BRAVE Director Herbert “Tweety” Anny and consultant Jim Fealy, who will provide technical assistance for the violence reduction program.
Anny is a 22-year veteran police officer who is being reassigned to the Mayor’s Office to oversee the BRAVE project. Fealy formerly served as police chief of High Point, N.C. when the Operation Ceasefire project was successfully implemented there.
While Anny and Fealy are establishing a framework for the BRAVE project, the city-parish is pursuing a $1.5-million federal grant to implement group violence reduction strategies that target juvenile offenders over a three-year period.
If approved, the grant will provide up to $500,000 per year for the following activities:
- Violent crime research and data analysis tools from LSU to help identify criminal suspects and groups that should be targeted by the BRAVE project
- Caseworkers and resources to provide substance abuse, mentoring, and job training to 25 youths each year who choose to leave crime behind through the BRAVE project
- Support staff for BRAVE Director Anny to maintain grant records, and conduct media and community outreach.
“This multi-year effort lead by the BRAVE members has reached the point, that with the help of the Mayor and City- Council, we are now putting in place a framework to carry us further,” District Attorney Hillar Moore said.
Moore noted that during the last few months, BRAVE project organizers have met with different organizations across Baton Rouge for help in focusing on zip code 70805. As a result, the BRAVE project now has support not only from law enforcement and local government, but also from the faith-based community, business and industry, social service and non-profit organizations, and the academic, educational, and recreation community.
The consultant, Fealy, will train local law enforcement to implement proven focused deterrence strategies, including the use of “call-ins” to confront youth engaged in crime. These youth will be offered the choice and the means to opt out of crime and enter into mentoring, job-training, and substance abuse programs.
As BRAVE director, Anny will coordinate with business, educational, and non-profit organizations and the faith-based community to provide these services. The youth who choose to continue in crime will face maximum law enforcement consequences.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White said he’s excited about the BRAVE program.
“BRAVE brings a whole new crime-fighting dimension to law enforcement with a proven track record of yielding unparalleled results in the substantial reduction of violent crimes in cities throughout the United States where similar programs were implemented,” Chief White said.