While homicide rates in Baton Rouge have fallen this year, nonfatal shootings have increased 27% compared to last year.
“It does concern me,” says Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. “That’s why we’re treating nonfatal shootings like homicides. Today’s nonfatal could be tomorrow’s homicide.”
In an address to the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon, Paul outlined several of the police department’s efforts to increase arrests and deter crime, which mostly involve community outreach or utilizing technological tools.
To share data between agencies, the department will soon use the same records management as the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s office. The software system allegedly comes without a price tag for the department, which Paul says is being offered for free from the local vendor.
There are 27 officers expected to graduate from the police academy next month, says Murphy, while noting the department is currently 70 officers short of being fully staffed. Another 67 applicants are presently being screened for the academy. Murphy plans to ask the Metro Council for permission to hire five additional data analysts, who will work in the Real Time Crime Center set to open at the end of the year.
There’s also plans to create a full-time police district downtown, providing officers for the area around the clock. Murphy didn’t know how many officers currently patrol the downtown area, but says 16 new officers will work in the district starting later this summer.
While improved technology will help, Murphy stressed that community involvement is critical to lowering crime. Following last month’s nightclub shooting on Florida Boulevard, Paul says the department, alongside the ATC, plans to sit down with local club promoters and business owners and urge them to take steps to become safer businesses.
“Listen and learn—that’s how we’re going to identify solutions,” Paul says. “We work in an ever-changing environment. We need to look at our practices and listen to the people affected the most—the people we serve.”