EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Friday's trio of shootings in Baton Rouge brought 2017's total number of murders in the parish to 102. It's reportedly a record high (numbers are still being verified) that comes just one year after 2016's record low of 61 murders.
"No one ever wants to reach this number, surely on the day that you have a brand new chief of police," said District Attorney Hillar Moore. "We have to ask if it's just an anomaly, which I think that it is, and so I think that we're going to do a lot better next year."
Moore says East Baton Rouge Parish hasn't seen this level of deadly violence since the 1980s, and he attributes some of the crime to the city's ongoing recovery after a challenging 2016. "I think a lot of the numbers here have something to do with the flood and what happened last year, and how people have been displaced and coming back, the lack of BRAVE, the killing of the officers, all of the things that hurt Baton Rouge last year. I think it all culminated into a really bad year," he said.
While continuing the BRAVE model of community policing, Moore says law enforcement must attack 2018 differently, with an increased focus on better intelligence and more intelligence officers. But he pointed to one serious challenge: the backbone of the Baton Rouge Police Department, the Uniform Patrol division, remains dangerously understaffed.
"We're 60 [officers] short," he explained. "When you're short, you draw down from intelligence, you draw down from community policing, because you have to answer calls, and without a fully forced Baton Rouge police force, we're going to still see significant issues."
Moore also noted that even though the homicide rate went up in 2017, the clearance rate of cases solved remained the same, hovering between the national average of 50 to 60 percent. He says detectives are still making arrests, despite the added case load.