Last week, about 160 Baton Rouge elected officials, law enforcement officers, business owners, nonprofits, and other community leaders launched a new public-private coalition to promote increased public safety across the city-parish. Called Safe BR, the initiative is focused on three pillars: providing resources and technology to law enforcement, community investment in strategies to stop crime, and accountability and transparency across the justice system.

This most recent effort comes as Louisiana’s capital city continues to experience a high number of violent crimes. Although homicides in the parish dropped by nearly 23% last year, 115 people lost their lives to violence in 2022. This was down from 149 in 2021, but it was still the parish’s second-deadliest year.

Clay Young, chairman of the Baton Rouge Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Foundation and owner of Clay Young Enterprises, said the group would announce new initiatives in the coming weeks, including more equipment, additional law enforcement raises, and mentorship and academic programming in local communities. He said SafeBR plans to give regular updates about its progress, and there’s already a website where crime statistics, reports, and updates will be provided.

Early last fall, the Baton Rouge Police Chief announced that law enforcement would begin maintaining a heavier presence in targeted “micro-areas” of the city with higher crime rates and rising gang activity. And this month, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council formed a new Public Safety Committee, which will include seven of the 12 council members and convene people involved in public safety issues and find solutions to the parish’s high crime rate. Baton Rouge leaders also hosted the 10th annual ICRIME summit, where law enforcement urged educators, parents, and others in the community to talk to youth about gun safety, drugs in school – especially fentanyl, which is increasingly available–and violence.

Similar efforts have been underway in New Orleans, where 500 business, civic and religious organizations formed the NOLA Coalition, which just recently offered an update report following its first 180 days. The group applauded the Mayor’s Office and the New Orleans Police Department for adopting several of its recommendations, including redeploying more officers to patrol duty, creating public-facing crime data dashboards, allotting more funding to officer retention and recruitment efforts, and conducting a national search for a new police chief.

The group continues to advocate for assigning new data analysts to each police district to assist officers with proactive policing and using federal funds for technology integration. So far, the NOLA Coalition has raised $5.4 million of its three-year, $15 million goal to support youth services. To date, $3.5 million has been disbursed to nonprofits, and the city is matching its contributions.

While these efforts are just beginning, they represent the partnerships and commitment, both to communities and policing, that are critical in addressing rising crime and increasing public safety. Crime has been rising not only in these Louisiana cities, but across the state and nation, as this recent Pelican report revealed. To combat these serious problems, local and state leaders must advance solutions that are grounded in evidence – proof of what works – and not succumb to politically motivated movements and campaigns that do little more than divide the communities that so desperately need to be united against crime.

Specifically, leaders must properly fund the police, focus law enforcement time and resources on preventing and solving the most serious crimes, and continue to enact smart-on-crime policies for both law enforcement and the entire justice system that reduce the revolving door in and out of prison. This work is especially needed to get repeat young offenders off the streets and into education and training, jobs, and self-sufficiency. It must happen across communities, in the state’s juvenile justice system, and in local and state jails and prisons where individuals are released daily with no plan and no support for doing anything other than returning to a life of crime.

We commend these Baton Rouge and New Orleans leaders for coming together to solve the serious crime problems that plague their communities, encourage citizens to get involved and support their efforts, and urge all involved to continue embracing evidence-based solutions and practice transparency in reporting progress. Together, we can ensure that this recent disturbing trend of rising crime quickly becomes a thing of the past.