Crime prevention districts are popular in Baton Rouge, but do they work?

Crime wasn’t necessarily on the rise in Capital Heights when the neighborhood association began looking for ways to increase security about two years ago. As Business Report explains in its new cover story, most consider the area a safe place to live, but residents wanted a stronger police presence to thwart occasional petty crimes, like vehicle break-ins.

That’s when Tyler Hicks, then-president of the association, noticed a trend emerging in nearby neighborhoods.

From Melrose Place to Tara to the high-end Bocage area, homeowners in an increasing number of older Baton Rouge neighborhoods were voting to tax themselves and adopt a unique new designation, one which turned out to be exactly what Capital Heights residents were looking for: a Crime Prevention and Improvement District.

“At the time, other neighborhoods were going through the process of creating these districts,” Hicks says. “We looked into it and saw that most of the surrounding neighborhoods had something like this.”

In 2016, Capital Heights joined them—as one of 14 new districts created within the last five years. Although the first dates back to 2004 at Concord Estates, recent years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of CPIDs in Baton Rouge. Altogether, at least 27 districts have been created across the city-parish.

If you aren’t familiar with them, don’t be surprised. It’s a relatively quiet trend. New districts pass each year without much fanfare. So what are Crime Prevention and Improvement Districts and do they work?

It’s not fair to simply call them “crime prevention districts” because—despite being sold largely on the promise of addressing crime—a significant portion of the money these districts generate goes toward neighborhood improvement and beautification projects.

Qualifier aside, Crime Prevention and Improvement Districts are created when neighborhoods or homeowners within a specified geographic area vote to tax themselves an annual parcel fee to fund off-duty police patrols and beautification projects. While that may sound a lot like a homeowners association fee, these CPIDs are public taxing districts created and operated in accordance with the laws of any other public body.

Statistics aren’t available to definitively answer the question of whether district’s work. The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Anecdotally, district advocates say crime has gone down in their neighborhoods. The district taxes fund off-duty police patrols and security measures like cameras to help deter lawlessness and catch culprits. But there’s no official research or conclusive evidence proving CPIDs work. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits regardless. Perhaps most important is these districts seemingly make residents feel safer—and sometimes perception is everything.

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