Baton Rouge, LA (FOX44) — The crime rate has been a highly discussed topic in Baton Rouge the last few years. Perhaps the intense interest in improving public safety is paying off.
The Baton Rouge Police Department released its official 2013 crime statistics Tuesday, and the quantity of most major crimes decreased.
"The (decrease in) violent crimes is a huge drop," claimed Cpl. Don Coppola, a BRPD spokesman.
The number of murders fell from 66 in 2012 to 49 in 2013, a 25.76 percent decrease. Similarly, the number of assaults declined by 23.31 percent, and the number of burglaries fell by 14.69 percent.
Coppola said the police department is proud of those achievements. "Not only the officers, the boots on the ground; the community is a big part of this," he added. "The community, who has helped us out, who has made those phone calls, who gave us the tips.
"They're getting more involved, they are tired of the violence, and they are stepping forward and helping us, and we greatly appreciate everything that they are doing."
"People are tired of seeing their individuals and their family members laid out in the street like animals," agreed Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed, a former gang member who became a community activist.
The statistics are from the department's annual submission to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report. Critics say that the report can be inaccurate, because only a handful of crimes are considered, and victims may not report every crime. But Coppola said this year's report and the trends it suggests are pretty true to what is actually happening around Baton Rouge.
"More so now than in the past," he claimed. "People are stepping up, people are reporting even the smallest thing, is something big to them, so they are stepping forward to make that call."
Coppola added that the BRAVE Project deserves some credit for the lower numbers. It launched in 2012 as a joint venture between the police department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, and the District Attorney's office to reduce gang violence.
Reed argued that law enforcement can only have so much impact if the community does not take the lead.
"The police is held accountable to a certain degree, but it all starts at home," he stated. "The biggest problem right now is that there are people in the home that hasn't been taught, so they can't teach."
BRAVE initially targeted the 70805 zip code, but its reach has expanded around the city. More than two dozen members of a Gardere gang were arrested recently, and officials believe it will continue to reduce the local crime rate in 2014.
"We're going to keep this track, we're going to keep doing what we're doing, because it is working, and look to have even more of a decrease than we do now," Coppola said.
Another criticism of the UCR report is the definition of rape, which was broadened to include more situations. BRPD did not completely switch over in its own reporting, so expect the number of reported rape cases to increase in 2014.