Viewpoint: June 23, 2010

A recent FBI report ranks Baton Rouge's 2009 murder rate in the top five among American cities with populations of at least 100,000. It is a disheartening statistic, considering nationwide, there was a 5.5 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes in this same group of cities and 2010 is not looking much better.

On the heels of this dismal report, during the Memorial Day weekend, WAFB reported five shootings in Baton Rouge, which resulted in at least three deaths. Shortly after, Baton Rouge was rocked by the arrest of seven people charged in connection with shootings that have occurred over the past year and a half. Those arrested range in age from 36 to 16 and six of them are under 20 years of age, with four of them classified as juveniles.

In the face of such stark and overwhelming evidence of endemic violence in our community, it is time for our city to engage in some serious self examination. The FBI report states, "It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. The efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control."

We would like to echo this sentiment. A lot of emphasis is placed on damage control, but what about damage prevention. The million dollar question is: What steps does a city take to begin to change a culture of violence? Baton Rouge needs to be taking those steps.