BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome will be hosting four community meetings Tuesday to encourage discussion and action with residents to stop East Baton Rouge Parish's high murder rate. The meetings will be held simultaneously from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at four churches throughout the city.
So far, there have been 95 total homicides in 2017, breaking the record of 94 homicides in 2015. The number of total homicides includes cases such as negligent or justified homicide, meaning a person was responsible for another person's death, but it wasn't classified as a murder. A total of 83 of those cases are being investigated as murders. About half of the murder cases remain unsolved.
Twelve people have been murdered in the last month. Two of those people are Bruce Cofield and Donald Smart, who were allegedly murdered by Kenneth Gleason in what police believe were racially motivated killings. The most recent murder happened on October 3, when Baton Rouge police found Roosevelt Netter, 52, shot to death inside his home in the 6300 block of Blue Grass Drive.
On Thursday, Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials announced plans for a 'strike force' to target illegal guns, domestic violence, and drug crimes during a news conference Thursday. Corey Amundson, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, said group violence, drug trafficking, and domestic violence are the three main drivers of homicides and violent crimes in our area.
"Too many decent and hardworking people are living as hostages in their own homes. This isn't right," Amundson told reporters.
Amundson was joined by District Attorney Hillar Moore, as well as representatives from the Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, and Louisiana State Police. As part of the plan, the U.S. Attorney's Office will devote prosecutors to pursuing federal charges against certain criminals. "Filling prisons is not our goal. Our goal is to prevent crime," said Amundson.
Interim BRPD Chief Jonny Dunnam says the threat of federal charges should instill fear in those looking to act out.
"In the federal system, they're usually prosecuted quicker. There's mandatory sentencing where these individuals go to jail, and they don't go to jail here in the state," said Dunnam.
Amundson says the strike force will also pursue drug traffickers, not just drug users, "without apology." The acting U.S. Attorney also said locking up violent offenders is only one part of the solution. Preventing crime is law enforcement's biggest priority. Currently, the federal government is providing some funding to Louisiana's prisoner reentry program, as well as drug treatment and domestic violence prevention programs.
Pinpointing ways to prevent crime in the community is what Mayor Broome hopes will happen when Baton Rouge residents convene at four churches Tuesday night.
"I sincerely value the input of my fellow residents. Baton Rouge is home to us all," Mayor-President Broome said.
The community meetings will feature large and small group discussions about community engagement and plans to put steps into action. Attendees will also take a pledge to stay committed to preventing violent crime in the city.
The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, October 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
Broadmoor United Methodist Church
10230 Mollylea Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70815
Greater King David Baptist Church
222 Blount Rd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
Oasis Christian Church
4524 E Brookstown Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70805
Shiloh Baptist Church
185 Eddie Robinson Sr. Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802