BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It’s been six months since the TRUCE program launched in Baton Rouge, and leaders say it’s working as designed to reduce violence.
Dozens of law enforcement officers and local leaders hit the streets of Scotlandville Monday afternoon. It’s the ninth community canvas event that’s meant to build relationships in neighborhoods plagued by crime. Officers and deputies passed out cupcakes, gloves, and gift cards to children and their families.
“We found that showing our young people love, showing them compassion, showing them that we're here to help them has gone a long way with,” TRUCE executive director Aishala Burgess said.
TRUCE picks up where the BRAVE program left off in 2017, targeting young people at risk of gang violence. BRAVE was known for aggressive policing, but TRUCE takes a softer approach by offering social services like education and job placement.
“I think we've really stepped up our game on offering services now,” District Attorney Hillar Moore said. “We tell them, ‘We love you. We don't want you to go down this road. We have information that says you are at risk to kill or be killed.’”
Moore said combining policing with an increased focus on social services has helped keep 2018’s homicide rate lower than the spike seen in 2017. As of mid-December, EBR has recorded about 20 fewer homicides than last year.
“With one body it's one too many, but we saw months with one homicide, some months with three and four, when typically we have 12 and 13, so we'd like to be able to replicate that into 2019 and continue this downward trend,” Moore explained.
Burgess said she wants TRUCE to be a warm and inviting program, giving families hope by giving them opportunities.
“We have 15 young people working in our program, we have another 14 that we’re working with at Tara High School, we have 10 on the waiting list, so it’s just phenomenal. I’m really excited about 2019. I’m hoping that we are able to reach more young people,” she said.