EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Broome talks about surge in violent crime across Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome granted a one-on-one interview on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to talk about the rising crime rate across the Capital City.
She added that she is implementing a formal East Baton Rouge Parish Violence Reduction Collaborative with local and state partners, along with the Department of Justice.
This would establish both short-term and long-term goals and strategies, to reduce gun violence and build trust between the criminal justice system and the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, according to the Mayor’s Office.
This will be a multi-year project, that the mayor hopes will come up with real solutions. It starts with a workshop hosted by the Department of Justice in early February.
Below are the key points of this new strategic plan provided by the Mayor’s Office.
- Mayor Broome has called for the implementation of an EBR Violence Reduction Collaborative which will begin with a strategic planning/technical assistance workshop on February 7th-9th, hosted by National Public Safety Partnership under the Department of Justice.
- The Violence Reduction Collaborative will work jointly for an initial period of 8 weeks to establish a 3 year Violence Reduction Strategic Plan. This includes BRPD, EBRSO & DA working together with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
- This collaborative effort will take the best of what we are already doing, while also identifying what we are NOT doing or what we need to change.
- Our law enforcement agencies are already working together every day, but this focused time will help ensure that we are leaving no stone unturned to make East Baton Rouge Parish safer. Subject matter experts, Investigators, Data Analyst, Detectives, all contributing to draft an operational plan with input and feedback from the DOJ’s Public Safety Partnership.
Here is the full transcript of the one-on-one interview in its entirety:
Lester: At your State of the City Address just a few weeks ago, you did say that you own the state of crime in Baton Rouge. How so?
Mayor Broome: “Well you know, as the leader of this city and parish, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the challenges that we face, especially those around crime and violence. But I also said that it’s not just a Sharon Weston Broome issue. It’s an issue that we all have to be concerned about and address as a community.
Lester: “You sort of described it as a crime epidemic. What do you think is the reason why?”
Mayor Broome: “There has been a lot of information from sociologists, from crime experts, you name it, who have said that the uptick in crime is taking place across the nation. It’s due to a myriad of issues, but many of them are couched in this pandemic we’re dealing with. And certainly, we recognize that that’s why the federal government early on in the pandemic, allocated Cares Act funding to address crimes in communities, which we used to launch our Safe, Hopeful and Healthy Initiative for the City of Baton Rouge.”
Lester: “I know the Baton Rouge Police Department just had a recruiting class to try to get more officers in, but it seems like it’s still under the number the chief wants. Do we need more officers on the street, patrolling those areas of concern?”
Mayor Broome: “I say that we do need more officers. We have officers who are retiring, we have officers who may be seeking higher pay in different areas. We have officers because of the stress of the job and what’s going on, have decided to pursue other career options. At the end of the day, however, we can’t necessarily say that if we have a plethora of officers on the street, that all crime will go away. We cannot police ourselves out of crime that takes place in our community. Crime is a very complex issue. And so there are socio-economic aspects of crime that we have to address. Law enforcement is one part, our residents and our community is another part. And so we have to bring all of those together to maximize our impact to create a safe community.”
Lester: “And you announced that you’re officially implementing a formal East Baton Rouge Parish Violence Reduction Collaborative. So how is this going to work Mayor?”
Mayor Broome: “So the East Baton Rouge Parish Violence Reduction Collaborative is made up of all of the entities that are involved in addressing crime. From the Baton Rouge Police Department to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Department. To our District Attorney’s Office, to our federal partners, and federal law enforcement agents. All of them will be a part of this collaboration. And we know that when we work together, when we share information when we are aligned on strategies and plans, that we have a greater impact. And so I believe that this collaborative will help us have a greater impact on crime and creating and reducing violence in our community.”
Lester: “You talked about the (January homicide) numbers compared to the last year 2021, 2020. You said that they were a little better than last year?”
Mayor Broome: “Well this time last year, we had 12 homicides. Right now we’ve had 7. We still have a lot of work to do. My goal as Mayor-President is to have zero homicides. So we’re constantly focused on reducing violence in our community. But you see it, the citizens see it. It’s involved in a lot of retaliatory incidents. A lot of domestic violence incidents, and so that is why we have to have a strategy. And that is why I’m glad that this collaborative is working with some national partners from the Department of Justice, who are going to be doing some training and planning in the upcoming weeks. Which will be approximately an 8-week process. And that process will emerge with a 3-year strategic plan, that our collaborative can be in alignment with, and implement.”
Lester: “And that does include the Department of Justice in this strategic plan. But how are they involved with this?”
Mayor Broome: “Well you know, because we just talked about the fact that violence is an issue throughout America, and certainly mayors across America are concerned about reducing violence. The Department of Justice has offered this technical assistance to cities across America. And we’re fortunate that the chief, Chief Paul has connected with them. And now we will have them come and do this training for our folks who are involved in law enforcement as well as other aspects in reducing crime.”
Lester: “And so all of these entities you mentioned, the DOJ, State Police, and more. How does that trickle down to the State Police specifically when it comes to stopping crime?”
Mayor Broome: “Well, when we discuss crime, we have to understand that the law enforcement partners, that’s there’s an intersection that exists among all of them. Whether it’s crime happening here in Baton Rouge or elsewhere. So for example, we need the sheriff’s department as our parish official law enforcement agent to be involved in our fight against crime. Our state partners, troopers who are here in Baton Rouge, and so when we bring everyone in, it offers an alignment and a strategic approach to addressing crime. But it also helps with shared information. Information that might not be readily available if we didn’t have this consistent meetings as a collaborative.:
Lester: “How does it start, or when will it start?”
Mayor Broome: “They have already, Chief Paul and the Sheriff’s Office, the DA and others, have already expressed and started their communication. In the upcoming weeks, even prior to this strategic planning session that’s going to take place with the Department of Justice, we anticipate that this group will have daily meetings because this issue of violence reduction and building and creating a safe community is a top priority. Certainly for me as the Mayor-President, but for everybody involved in that sphere.”
Lester: “Is it the number one priority in your administration right now?”
Mayor Broome: “I would say it is a top priority. I would definitely say that it is a top priority. I would definitely say it’s a number one priority. Because it certainly impacts a lot of other areas in our community. Whether it’s economic development or other areas, but it’s certainly at the top of the list.
Lester: “You said you get a call every time there’s a homicide. Maybe late at night, your husband Marvin wakes up, but you still take those calls?”
Mayor Broome: “Oh I do. And when my phone rings, especially when it’s late at night like that, I’m praying that it’s not what I anticipate. And the dispatcher on the other end I can always here even the concern in their voice and the regret that they’re reporting another homicide that has taken place. Thankfully and prayerfully, those calls this month have not been as frequent. And I am the eternal optimist. I believe that when we start this plan of action as we are leaning in, that we are going to see tangible results. And that we are going to see a better year as it relates to a safe, hopeful and healthy community this year than we saw last year. So I believe the strategies, initiatives, collaborations, everything that we’re putting forward, will help us have a safer 2022.”
Lester: “Some people have said they don’t feel safe in Baton Rouge. Do you agree with that assessment, what can be done to change that narrative?”
Mayor Broome: “I hope that people can know what we’re doing. I think that will help elevate a level of safety. I hope that people recognize that when you look at communities across the nation that comparatively Baton Rouge is safe. I don’t want people to be fearful. And that’s why we have to look out for one another. Even beyond law enforcement, I think it’s incumbent for neighbors to look out for neighbors. We’ve got some ideas that we want to implement in neighborhoods that help that process, and I’ll be talking about those initiatives real soon. But I don’t want our community to operate in a spirit of fear, but I want us all to collaborate along a goal of building a safer community, and we’re going to use every entity possible to make that happen.”
Lester: “And you have complete confidence in the leadership at BRPD?”
Mayor Broome: “I have complete confidence in the leadership of BRPD and Chief Murphy Paul.”
Lester: “Do you believe it’s fair that some people blame you 100% for the crime? You’re the mayor, but are some things out of your control?”
Mayor Broome: “You know, there are a lot of things that I get blamed for, so some of that comes with the territory of being a leader. I think that people don’t understand the whole evolvement of crime, the complexities of crime. If I could wave a magic wand and make crime go away of course I would do it. But this is something that has evolved. This is something that we know that statistically the data shows, that the sociologists show, that this is an era that we live in, that there’s an uptick in crime. Not only in Baton Rouge, but all across America. That should say something to people right there. But my goal as the Mayor-President is to do everything in my power, to create a safe community where everyone feels that they can thrive and prosper and not live in fear. And so we’re going to get there, but it’s going to take work, and I’m up for the task.”
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