Baton Rouge launches new public-private coalition for public safety: ‘We’re all impacted.’

The Advocate

Baton Rouge elected officials, law enforcement, business owners and nonprofits are launching a new coalition to improve public safety in Baton Rouge called SafeBR.

“This group is diverse, equipped and passionate about our city,” said Clay Young, chairman of the Baton Rouge Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Foundation and owner of Clay Young Enterprises.

About 160 people across multiple industries have signed on to SafeBR. The initiative is focused on three pillars: providing resources and technology to law enforcement; community investment in strategies to stop crime; and accountability and transparency across the justice system.

“Public and private partnerships are the key to public safety in all sectors,” Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said during a press conference announcing the coalition. “We are not going to give up and we’re not going to stop doing this work.”

Myron Daniels, Chief of Administration with the Baton Rouge Police Department noted that homicides in the parish dropped by nearly 23% last year, but there is still work to be done. 

“One thing we know for sure is that crime has changed over the years, and therefore the response has to change,” he said. 

According to Advocate records, 115 people lost their lives to violence in 2022 — down from 149 in 2021, but still the parish’s second-deadliest year.

Organizers said last year’s Page/Rice Camera Initiative, in which cameras were placed in areas with high crime rates and transmitted to real-time centers monitored by police, is one example of providing resources to law enforcement.

Speakers at Wednesday’s event were vague on what specific steps the coalition plans to take. But Young said it would announce new initiatives in coming weeks, including more equipment, additional law enforcement raises, and mentorship and academic programming in local communities. He said SafeBR plans to give regular updates about its progress.

Cathy Toliver — grandmother of Devin Page Jr., the three-year-old who was shot and killed by a stray bullet while he was sleeping in his home in last year — called the cameras “super eyes” and said she was thankful for them. But she also advocated for a more holistic approach.

“You have to change the way people are thinking,” she said. “What do we do once the criminals are caught? Situations that are not learned from are always repeated over and over and over. If I could talk to the person who murdered my grandbaby I would want to know what was on your mind and let’s have a conversation. I don’t want to see people thrown away.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s press conference all noted that cooperation between law enforcement and private business would be essential moving forward.

“We’re all impacted, we’re all victims, and it’s gonna take every single one of us in this room working together,” said Rep. Garret Graves.

David Mullens, chair of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said focusing on safety would help keep people in Baton Rouge.

“If we don’t focus on safety, it’s difficult to build a vibrant economy,” he said.

SafeBR is seeking donations for its Community Safety Fund and inviting organizations, businesses and individuals to join the coalition.

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