BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Law enforcement hit the streets of Gardere Tuesday in ATVs, on foot, and on horseback Tuesday for the first community outreach event of the summer.
It's yet another opportunity to put a positive face on police and build relationships in the community, but Tuesday evening was special. The effort got back to its roots, canvassing a neighborhood where the concept first began more than a decade ago. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux says back then, Gardere was exploding with crime.
"We had more calls for service come out of this area than any other area that we serviced and a lot of it was violent crimes," said Gautreaux. "We had shootings, we had homicides that were occurring, and we had a lot of robberies."
He says things have improved since then and crime rates have d ropped. It's a success Gautreaux believes would not have been possible without the people who live there. "We can't provide the people what they want us to provide, what we should provide, or what we want to provide without their help," said Gautreaux.
"Today has been a really fantastic day," Murelle Harrison added.
The jambalaya, the conversations, and the time may seem small, but Harrison, who has led the charge in the area through the Gardere Initiative, says the investment truly makes the difference for community members who often feel isolated. "It's like they are marginalized and not a real part of the larger community and so today was just a good day to know you're important and we really care about you," Harrison added.
Her group offers jobs, literacy programs, and other resources for youth in the community. When combined with a routine law enforcement presence, she believes it has transformed not just the crime, but also the community mindset.
"I've just seen all those changes since we've been here," said Harrison.
The sheriff says while things have gotten better, more can be done. It's a goal he says they are not giving up on in Gardere or anywhere else in the parish.
"It's to be here every day as much as we can be and that's what we're trying to do," Gautreaux said.
The group hopes events like this one will help them reverse the usual trend of increased crime during the summer months.