BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There's a new sense of urgency surrounding the domestic violence problem in East Baton Rouge Parish. The parish recorded a record-setting 14 domestic violence homicides in 2017. There were 12 in 2016 and have been five so far in 2018.
District Attorney Hillar Moore is hoping a new initiative will help bring down those numbers. He asked national researchers to come to Baton Rouge to analyze what's working and what's not.
A team from John Jay College's National Network of Safe Communities spent two days in the Capital City this week meeting with law enforcement agencies, judges, prosecutors, and leaders from other organizations that deal with domestic violence cases. Their goal is to get everyone on the same page.
Two glaring problems were identified in the team's initial assessment: data management and lack of emergency housing for domestic abuse victims.
"For anyone that needs short-term, medium-term, or long-term security, not having access to affordable housing is a huge barrier to leaving an abusive relationship. That's a big barrier to economic empowerment," explained Rachel Teicher, director of the team's Intimate Partner Violence Intervention program.
"How can we figure out how to house these people, how to feed them, how to get their children to school?" Moore added.
Safe haven organizations like IRIS Domestic Violence Center provide some resources, but Moore says investigators often buy hotel rooms with their own credit cards just to get victims to safety. He hopes local hotels and private individuals with vacant, furnished apartments will step up to help fill the gaps.
The other big problem is that different police agencies and different courts use different computer systems to track offenders and victims.
"Because of all the different systems and organizations we have, that's something that's been difficult to overcome, and it gets in the way of us really doing a really good analysis of the data," Moore said.
The researchers say better managed data leads to better managed cases.
The cost of the national research team comes to $75,000 per year for two years. Moore says he'll seek funding from private donors and the East Baton Rouge city-parish.
Another group of researchers from the National Network for Safe Communities will be in Baton Rouge on May 30 and 31 to do a similar analysis of group violence in East Baton Rouge Parish. That is part of the city's new TRUCE program that picks up where BRAVE left off.