BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge is no stranger to crime or the efforts to fight it. Last year, the city saw a record of 104 homicides, but a new crime fighting approach involves the community making donations for change.
"We put in a $50,0000 commitment earlier this year," said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC). "We sent out a message to the business community and investors encouraging them to match it at increments of $500 to $1000 or higher."
Leaders in the crime fighting community are looking to use those tax deductible dollars donated to the East Baton Rouge Law Enforcement Support Fund to drastically reduce the homicide rate with technology and programs. Those areas of focus have been identified by the East Baton Rouge district attorney, the East Baton Rouge sheriff, and the Baton Rouge police chief.
Over the last month, District Attorney Hillar Moore says they have been reaching out to businesses to fund crime fighting techniques. "We're limited on crime cameras and license plate readers," Moore said. "We have very little ShotSpotter coverage, only six square miles."
The city's most recent homicide on College Drive happened outside of ShotSpotter coverage. While Moore says this technology won't convict someone or put them in jail by itself, it does give investigators an instant place to start.
"It draws a circle around where potentially the shots came from and maybe where shell casings will be," Moore said. "It alerts the police really quickly compared to citizens who would call in." Moore adds the police can be alerted area of town where shots were fired through text message or email.
The DA says citizens only call in about 18 percent of the time when they hear shots fired, which is why the ShotSpotter technology has become a vital tool. But adding more ShotSpotters around town comes with a high price tag. Moore says the cost is about $65,000 per square mile, per year. He's hoping business donations can help offset that cost.
Click here to make a donation to the EBR Law Enforcement Support Fund.
"That's a lot of money to spend when you have a lot of personnel costs, a lot of cars that are needed," Moore said. "But to me, it's technology that's really well worth the money."
Additionally, the license plate readers and crime cameras range in price from $7,500 to $16,000 each, according to the DA, not including the technology needed to operate the systems. So far, a few members of the chamber and private citizens have donated almost $123,000. Leaders say this is an ongoing campaign and crime fighting effort with no end in sight.
"We may move around. 70805 is no longer that place that where our time is spent. It's more 70802 and other areas. Things move, crime moves, people move, and we have to move the technology to keep up with that," Moore said.
"We're putting out the challenge," Knapp said. "Let's see the community actively buying into the necessary things that will help."
Leaders say they also plan to continue "data-driven policies and interventions with violent groups, establishing unified intelligence networks for coordinated policing activity, and fund TRUCE, a non-profit reducing violent crime through youth engagement."
City leaders say they will meet with business folks who donated money once they start buying products to report where their money is going and how it's helped in the crime fighting efforts.