As she begins her second term, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced two new initiatives today targeting crime, blight and litter in Baton Rouge.
In the annual State of the City address to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, held virtually, Broome unveiled what she is calling the Safe, Hopeful, Healthy Initiative to look at the root causes of crime—lack of access to education, food, health care, shelter, economic opportunity—and work to implement solutions.
The plan, which has been in the works since last fall, calls for implementing a neighborhood-centered strategy that employs community members as outreach workers to proactively assist in the reduction of violence and crime in targeted areas.
The outreach workers will couple their understanding of neighborhood dynamics with professionally trained intervention tactics to mediate conflicts and connect residents to resources that will improve and enhance their quality of life.
“This will enable our neighborhoods to heal from the inside out,” Broome says.
The program, which comes on the heels of Baton Rouge’s deadliest year on record, will also employ school-based outreach practices in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates, targeting at-risk youth to try to prevent the cycle of violence.
The program will be funded with some $2 million of federal CARES Act money, which was allocated to communities last year to help address negative socioeconomic impacts from the pandemic.
In her speech, Broome also announced a coordinated action plan to reduce litter and blight in Baton Rouge. Elements of the plan include greater enforcement by law enforcement of existing litter laws and the dedication of three units with the Department of Public Works to clean up city streets and monitor and measure the effectiveness of those efforts on an ongoing basis.
The program also calls for the creation of community engagement programs—an online portal with tools for residents wanting to implement cleanup efforts in their own neighborhoods, training seminars and quarterly volunteer-led cleanup efforts at specific locations.
The initiative will also involve an anti-litter messaging campaign.
As for funding, a spokesman for the mayor says some of the programs will simply involve reorganizing DPW and working with existing assets. The city-parish is also seeking grant funding and outside partners to help underwrite some of the other efforts.
Other areas the mayor’s speech focused on included:
• Economic development. Broome says her administration wants to expand infrastructure, bring broadband access to 90% of residents by the end of the year and secure a lease with a supermarket in north Baton Rouge. While talks continue with potential grocery partners, no deal has been finalized, her spokesman says.
• COVID-19. Broome applauded the response of the city’s health care community to the challenge posed by the pandemic, but notes that the total case count in the parish has topped 25,000 and that East Baton Rouge Parish just recorded its third-highest day of reported new cases since the pandemic began. “Although we have come a long way, our fight against COVID-19 is not done yet,” Broome says. She is expected to announce Thursday whether the city will revert back to a modified phase one, as New Orleans did, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the disease.
• St. George. In response to a question about the ongoing litigation surrounding the prospective new city, Boome said the idea behind the city-parish court challenge to the incorporation is not an attempt to delegitimize the 2019 election, in which St. George voters approved the incorporation, but to force organizers to produce a plan of government.