New blight numbers show a correlation to crime
BATON ROUGE- New numbers paint a disturbing picture of how blighted properties have a correlation to crimes occurring in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The numbers obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show there are 7,963 blighted properties in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 70802, there were 753 violent crimes. In 70805, there were 943 violent crimes. Almost half of all of the violent crimes in those zip codes occurred within 100 feet of a blighted property, according to the numbers.
In Old South Baton Rouge, there are dozens of blighted properties. Vines are so ripe, they've overgrown from the ground and now connect to the power lines. Trash, burned out houses and boarded up structures are a way of everyday life.
"Looks like a disaster, nasty trashy hood," Michael, a resident said. "Baton Rouge don't give a f***."
His sentiments are echoed by others like Brittnay Wilson. She says their elected leaders, starting with Councilwoman Tara Wicker have failed them.
"I think she's doing a horrible job," Wilson said. "If she was doing her job, it would be cleaned up... look at it."
Wilson said she's tired of politicians talking about problems, and not follow up to make sure they are rectified.
"Nothing is being done," Wilson said. "So what are ya'll doing? Where are ya'll starting from? What is your plant? What are ya'll doing? I'm tired of the excuses."
We took Wilson's concerns to Councilwoman Wicker. She says she's not proud of the way the area looks.
"At the end of the day we will need coordination and cooperation with our mayor's office, DPW and council to put policy in place...and ask them to be enforced," Wicker said.
Wicker also said despite the way it looks, blight is a priority for her. But, getting houses demolished isn't an easy task.
"Let's get together a work group... a committee made up of community residents, DPW and everyone involved to address this," Wicker said. "Is it a money issue? Identify the problem and get to the bottom of it and solve it. I plan on having this discussion immediately. We're getting calls everyday about the issues with blight."
Until residents see results, many are not holding their breath.
"It don't make me proud," Michael said. "It don't make us proud either."
We reached out to Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's office for a comment today. Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel released the following statement:
"As we speak the Mayor is with DA Hillar Moore and the Police Chief in the Brookstown Neighborhood working with Councilman LaMont Cole, Rep Ted James, members of the faith based community and DPW workers doing a blight clean up initiative. The Brookstown neighborhood is one that has been hard hit by crime. Blight is an issue that the City Parish has dealt with for decades. The Dept. of Public Works has demolished 86 houses in the last six months using in house labor. The Mayor has directed the Dept. of Public works to seek an outside contract to expedite the backlog of demolition needs. The scope of work for this contract is being finalized at this time. The focus at the present time is demolishing structures identified as priorities by the Police Dept.
Once structures are torn down the next issue is redevelopment. Vacant lots become weed patches that on their own create big issues. The Mayor has recently directed funds to the Redevelopment Authority as part of the holistic approach at dealing with BLIGHT, CRIME AND THE ENSUING ISSUES. Blight and redevelopment are also key factors in dealing with the aftermath of the flood of last year."