BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the last four years, according to East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, the BRAVE program helped reduce homicides. However, in 2017, the parish topped out at a record-breaking 104 murders, 84 of which happened in Baton Rouge city limits.
"We've been looking at those numbers for some time to get an idea of what's going on," said Moore. "What can we do to save these young men who are just at risk?"
That's where David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities and professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, steps in. He's been working behind the scenes with the parish for years.
"The bottom line here is that homicide and gun violence is driven by very small active groups in the community," said Kennedy.
In a report, State of Crime: 2018, released Friday afternoon by Moore, drivers of the high homicide rate were identified. The main culprits were group member involved killings, making up 28 percent of the homicide rate.
"Everyone is alarmed at the number, including ourselves. We don't want that to happen. We're a better community than that and we deserve better," Moore added.
One thing is for certain, Kennedy and Moore agree, reducing the high crimes rates is simple but takes commitment. Moore's report states that closing the crime gap starts with filling law enforcement vacancies, re-energizing and refunding a program like BRAVE, identifying those causing the problems, inviting them to a meeting with law enforcement, and for lack of better terms, helping them find a way out.
"Being one of these high risks guys means being one step above homeless. These are not people that make a lot of money. They have nearly all been hurt. If they're not dead, then they've been shot or stabbed, their friends have been killed or their family members have been killed," Kennedy explained.
Kennedy said more often than not, people in those groups aren't operating in secret and are most at risk in any city.
"It's a terrible way to live and most everybody doesn't like it that much, they especially don't' like the violence. Nobody likes walking out the house thinking you're going to get shot. So yeah, given a safe and honorable way out. a lot of them will take it," Kennedy added.
Officials said law enforcement agencies in Oakland, California used the same approach. Now, their homicide clearance rate has drastically decreased.
"Any city that really decides that it's going to take this seriously and stick with it can make a big difference. It's never perfect. Any city will have rough moments, but we now know how to stick with it and come back from that and keep on going," Kennedy said.
"This is what we all want. More safety, fewer arrests, less friction between the police and the community. This is a way of getting all of that," he added.