Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $375,000)
As violence spiked nationwide amid the pandemic, violence within East Baton Rouge Parish (EBR) escalated to unprecedented levels. The result was consecutive record-setting years for homicides in EBR during 2020 and 2021. The violence was so bad that EBR's murder rate was 5x higher than the national average in 2021. However, this rate is jurisdiction-wide and does not accurately reflect the pervasiveness and extent of violence within certain neighborhoods in EBR. Consistent with crime research, the majority of violence in EBR occurred within concentrated areas and was perpetrated by a small percentage of the population, mostly loosely formed groups. These high-crime intensity areas are called "hot spots" and are predominantly located within two zip codes, 70802 and 70805. Left behind economically, these underserved zip codes, and other likes them, have historically, disproportionately and adversely been impacted by higher rates of violence and socioeconomic inequality when compared to the rest of EBR. In fact, for context, one of them (70805) had a murder rate 6x higher than EBR's and 21x higher than the U.S. during 2021.
Prior to 2020, however, EBR was enjoying sustained decreases in violence as a result of ongoing, collaborative crime reduction efforts within these hot spot areas through an organization called "TRUCE." TRUCE, a prosecutor-led nonprofit entity, was initially formed to address these types of issues in EBR by developing and deploying community-based group violence intervention and focused deterrence strategies. Originally formed in 2012, in partnership with local authorities and the community, the violence intervention program was called Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination (or "BRAVE") and later became TRUCE in 2018. TRUCE laid the groundwork and formed the core public safety partnerships that have become a vital component in EBR's public safety ecosystem. Given the interconnectivity and concurrence of high crime, high poverty and high socioeconomic inequality perpetually afflicting the same communities, TRUCE is strategically positioned to implement a more robust focus on community-led violence prevention and intervention programming. Furthermore, being prosecutor-led, TRUCE has the capacity to create more diversion opportunities along the criminal justice continuum aimed at reducing violence and victimization. This project will enhance the framework to build out and sustain more intensive and effective community-based public safety partnerships in EBR.