When shopping at the Mall of Louisiana, the last thing on anyone's mind may be whether the complex is within Baton Rouge or outside of city limits, but where the shopping complex lies does matter when it comes to law enforcement.
On May 14, in a 9-3 vote, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved annexing part of the Mall of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge General Hospital into Baton Rouge city limits. With that annexation, effective June 13, comes a shift in which police agency will now patrol the newly acquired territory.
Currently, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputies respond to any and all calls for the two areas. On average, deputies went to the Mall of Louisiana about 97 times a month between January 2013 and May 2014. The highest number of call outs was in January 2013 with 137. That's the same month there was a shooting outside of the mall. In May 2014, the number dropped to 76 calls.
Across the street at BRG, on average, deputies handle about nine calls every month for the same time frame. In January 2013, there were only two calls deputies helped with. The highest number of callouts at BRG was in June 2013 with 16 calls.
On June 13th, 2014, the Baton Rouge Police Department takes over covering the mall and BRG. Specifically, District 2 on Highland will take on the new territory.
"It's a big district. It's our biggest district, and we handle many, many different types of calls," said BRPD's Cpl. L'Jean McKneely.
Cpl. McKneely said District 2 already covers from downtown to Bluebonnet and all around LSU. Their calls range from a variety of things such as the interstate wrecks and major traffic back-ups, helping LSU and crimes from a minor stalled vehicle all the way up to the more serious charges like battery, burglary or murder.
"Right now, we have approximately give or take a few, 5,000 calls, and now we looking to possibly add," said McKneely.
All the calls EBRSO used to take on will now be handled by city police.
"An officer will be assigned to that zone so there's going to be an officer in that zone already, and if he's tied up, the next zone area is the Essen Lane and that officer, if he isn't working on anything, will respond over to assist," said McKneely.
But not all of the Mall of Louisiana has been annexed into Baton Rouge. The department stores have yet to be annexed, which means an EBRSO deputy will continue patrolling those areas.
"It'll be somewhat confusing in the beginning," said McKneely.
Confusing but manageable is how McKneely put it saying the additional 100-150 calls per month breaks out to about 3-4 calls per day for the officer covering the newly annexed areas. He said in other parts of the city, some officers handle up to 15 calls a day, again ranging from false alarms to the most heinous crimes.
"The public safety by any means will not be jeopardized, and we don't foresee a problem in response time," said McKneely.
If additional parts outside of the city get annexed into Baton Rouge, long-term, BRPD may look into adding on a 5th district. As for fire protection, both St. George and Baton Rouge Fire Departments say both will continue responding depending on who is closer, which is what they already do.