Crime prevention districts making an impact in south Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The creation of crime prevention districts in Louisiana began about 15 years ago.

There are more than 15 crime prevention districts in the Baton Rouge area, including two in the Gardere area.

The sheriff's sub-station on Burbank Dr. was made a full-time office in 2008 and according to department officials, the homicide rate in Gardere has fallen 86 percent after that first year.  Combine that police presence with the crime prevention districts in the area and you have many who believe the changes are making a huge impact.

Deputies from the EBR Sheriff's Office can be seen at all hours of the day throughout the Hermitage Subdivision.

"I love it and love the fact that the police officers sit here," says Joyce Steward.

Residents like Steward pay an annual fee of $100, which Hermitage Crime Prevention District commissioners like Sammy Grimes put towards additional patrols, security lights and even surveillance cameras.

"Your home is your money that's the largest investment of your life and that's more than enough incentive for people willing to stand up to try manage their streets, their community, their immediate living area," said Grimes.

The Hermitage District was formed in 2009 and sits inside the South of Burbank District created years before.

Grimes says residents wanted to create their own district so they could have complete control over the use of their crime prevention funds instead of sharing with business owners who they say aren't in the district 24 hours a day.

Identifying specific community needs is exactly what officials from the sheriff's office say makes the districts work.

"While we may have the Shenandoah District that has a problem with speeding or traffic enforcement they can have deputies in the area focus on that," said Casey Rayborn Hicks with the EBR Sheriff's Office. "In the Gardere we may have a problem with drug use, illegal weapons and so deputies in there can focus on that."

Since 2008, the sheriff's office says the Hermitage District has seen significant drops in burglaries and auto thefts, with decreases in robberies and assaults as well.  While it may prove difficult to determine which factors are making the biggest difference, those familiar with the Hermitage District say every little bit helps.

"We know if they see law enforcement officers, marked patrol units, deputies in uniforms on the streets that most criminals are less likely to commit crimes," said Hicks.

"I'm ecstatic because really it gives us a chance to manage what's ours," said Grimes.

9News spoke with a commissioner from the South of Burbank Crime Prevention District who said they are in the process of using their funds for some major projects, including installing $100,000 worth of street lights on Elvin Dr. and implementing an active Boys and Girls Club at the BREC Park on Gardere Lane.

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