It’s no secret that North Baton Rouge is reported to be the home of the majority of violent crime in Baton Rouge. The problem is when local law enforcement paints a zip code and doesn’t help signal out the real problem areas. Since the inception of the BRAVE unit in Baton Rouge, we have paid closer attention to the 70805 and 70802 zip codes. It is true that crime happens in these areas, but that doesn’t help paint for us the clear picture.
Between the area of Bogan Walk Street, Acadian Thruway, Choctaw Drive, and Plank Road, there were more than 20 reports of shots fired in 2015. Inside the same boundaries there was a triple homicide in August of last year, where no suspect is on record according to BatonRougeCrime.com. If you extend just outside of that small nine cross street area you’ll find that a high percentage of the murders in Baton Rouge happened in that portion of the 70805/70802 zip code.
Why does this matter? Because North Baton Rouge as a whole has been painted as violent, when in truth the major issues rest in a concentrated area. This year BRAVE will be given more money to go after crime, but what results will we see? The truth is, BRAVE can’t fix crime. The resounding issue in these areas is often drugs. Why do people sell drugs? To make money. We could spend time talking about the other elements that play a part in the crime problems but the bulk of it goes back to a lack of economic opportunity.
The newest businesses between the Bogan Walk Street, Acadian Thruway, Plank Road, and Choctaw area are Family Dollar and Dollar General stores. The biggest problem with this, is they offer little opportunity for those who live in the area to choose an option outside of crime. Some will say, well no one is going to open a business in the middle of a killing zone, and that is understandable. The problem is, when the media reports that North Baton Rouge as a whole is violent that hurts the chances of growth, which hurts the chances of reducing crime.
The bloodiest blocks of Baton Rouge are the areas with the least. There is no emergency room in critical moments near these high crime areas, so lives are surely lost due to the lack of access to an emergency room. New job opportunities are almost all created in the southern portion of Baton Rouge – one of the major issues with this is the terrible public transportation of the capital city. So when the media and law enforcement talk about the crime issues in 70805 and 70802, it would help if they discussed the deficits that help these issues boil over, year after year.
Both high schools closest to this area have been stripped from the community. The Recovery School District (RSD) took both Capitol High School and Istrouma High Schools, and just today the BESE Board officially announced that they will return Istrouma High to East Baton Rouge Parish School System. The problem is, even with returning Istrouma High to the parish, the amount of investment in this school does not equal that of Lee High or Baton Rouge High, where the school system spent over $100 million dollars to renovate one and rebuild the other. Where you have a high crime area is where the majority of our resources should go, in order to change the product that community produces, which will help reduce crime. Both Lee High and Baton Rouge High School are more in line with commercial education products, rather than a community school which both Istrouma and Capitol High were. Commercial meaning they are schools designed to attract parents and students from all over the city, but don’t produce results for the communities they dwell in.
Baton Rouge High is just a few blocks away from the site where 16-year-old Kejohn Carrol was killed on Spain Street in December of last year. Yet the students who live in the area aren’t afforded the opportunity to attend the nicest school in the parish, because it is exclusively magnet and does not serve the community it rests in.
The problems we face as a city are vast, but they can be solved. It is just counter-productive for the media and law enforcement to label zip codes and portions of town, when certain hot spots are truly the center of the violence in our city. Simply put, 20 plus shootings reported in the corridor of those four streets is a sign that the bloodiest blocks of Baton Rouge are in the poorest district of our city. The numbers don’t lie. There is a saying, “In God we trust, everybody else bring data.” The data says that all of 70805 and 70802 isn’t the issue, but that we have pockets of high crime, and if we can create opportunity in mid-city and north Baton Rouge, we can sandwich in the crime area with opportunities and create a safer Baton Rouge.
This area may be one of the most dangerous places to live in our state, but police and prayer alone won’t solve this problem. We have to come up with plans that give the dope dealer a shortage of workforce candidates, because they will be gainfully and legally employed because their city has created opportunities for them. Some of the most successful African-Americans in our city are from these areas, but they came out of these communities at a time when there were still opportunities. We need to get back in the business of creating those opportunities in North Baton Rouge, especially in the areas around the bloodiest blocks in Baton Rouge.