BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's no secret crime is plaguing the City of Baton Rouge.
"We have a lot of young men, particularly young African American men, in our community who need a change of heart. Their hearts just aren't in the right place," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul.
It's a constant topic of discussion. In an effort to decrease the amount crime scene tape being wrapped around the Capital City, police officers and leaders in the faith-based community are thinking outside the box.
"We know what they've been through, or we want to hear, rather. Tell us what you've been through and how hard life has been for you. We want to love you. The only way we can do that is if we make the connection," said Lynwood Spell, pastor of Star Hill Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
The chief says BRPD is focusing on five areas of town this weekend in an outreach event they're calling Prayer Patrol. Officers and local church leaders will be walking through neighborhoods that have seen recent murders. Chief Paul says if they can reach one and change a life, then "well done."
"We want to reach out to those families, help them to heal through their process," explained Star Hill Baptist Church member, Kelvin Cryer.
"Some of the information we are getting is from Crime Stoppers," the chief said. "So this is people from the community, calling and telling us areas of concern."
"We want to show people that we do love them and we do care, that we haven't forgotten about them, that we don't just want to arrest them and throw them away, but we do want them to be a part of our society and our families," Pastor Spell said.
The chief says policing is about more than just solving crimes; it's about hitting the streets and connecting with people in the community. "Trying to preach and reach the hearts and souls of these young men to see if we can do something different to change this culture of violence that goes on in our community," he said.
"The only thing that's going to drive out that hatred is that we demonstrate and practice and show that we care. That to me, is the essence of what Prayer Patrols is all about," said Pastor Spell.
Church leaders say they really strive to reach those people. "Think it's fun and okay to kill. Those that think that shooting our brothers and sisters is a way life, that's the group we want to say no. There's a much better way. The consequences of your actions aren't just jail. Those consequences are eternal," said Pastor Spell.
Over 150 members of the clergy expressed interest in being part of the first Prayer Patrol this Saturday, August 11. Members of the community are encouraged to attend. It starts at Star Hill Baptist Church on North Foster Drive at 9 a.m.
Organizers say they plan to meet every month, discuss areas of concern, and walk the neighborhoods.