At a community forum earlier this week, called to address a recent spike in gun violence in Baton Rouge, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and Police Chief Murphy Paul noted that while the trends are troubling, the city’s homicide rate is still lower than it was at this point in 2018 or 2017.
“Certainly we have challenges,” Broome reportedly said at the gathering. “But this is not Gotham City.”
But Metro Council member Matt Watson doesn’t believe that the homicide rate alone paints an accurate picture of the city’s crime problem, and he has asked the BRPD for statistics on the number of nonfatal shootings, which he believes are on the rise, based on conversations he has had with police officers and constituents.
“Mayor Broome and Murphy Paul said Tuesday night the homicide rate is going down,” Watson says. “But the number of people getting shot is actually going up. The only reason homicides are going down is because you have bad marksmen and good EMTs.”
Watson says he was initially told by a statistician in the BRPD that it would be easy to pull data on the number of nonfatal shootings, even though that is not one of the standard categories of the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the BRPD and submitted to the FBI.
He was later told, however, it would take weeks to tabulate the numbers.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult,” he says. “All I want to know is how many times someone got shot in Baton Rouge.”
A spokesman for the BRPD tells Daily Report the information requested by Watson “isn’t readily available and would have to be researched.”
Watson says the citizens have a right to the information.
“Every member of the Metro Council and the mayor should be asking to see these statistics,” he says. “We know when we have a homicide. But when we have a surge in gun violence, like the ones we’ve seen recently, I would think those numbers would be at the ready.”
In the past 10 days, there have been eight unrelated shootings in East Baton Rouge Parish, which have killed four people and injured 14 others. In the city, there was one fatal shooting during that time.
Still, the number of homicides for the year to date is 37, down from 48 at this time in 2018 and 42 in 2017, though up from 26 in 2016.
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the number of shootings cited over the past 10 days is parishwide.)