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Criminologist says mayor's applauding of gun violence reduction not yet a victory over rampant crime

4 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Thursday, January 11 2024 Jan 11, 2024 January 11, 2024 6:54 PM January 11, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Just an hour or so after Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome finished her 'State of the City' address touting a 34 percent reduction in gun violence, three people were shot, including a five-year-old.

It's the third multiple-casualty shooting event of the year.

The rash of drive-by-style shootings is something criminologist Edward Shihadeh says will likely keep happening.

"That's not good news. That's actually a very disquieting development," said Shihadeh.

The problem is the shift from semi-automatic to illegally altered automatic weapons.

"In a drive-by shooting, instead of five bullets being fired, or 10 in a magazine--now it's 50 bullets or 40 bullets. People are going to get hit," Shihadeh said.

It's something Shihadeh says needs to be kept track of.

"The nature of crime on the streets is going to change, so given that more automatic weapons are being used and given that there's going to be more injuries, maybe not deaths, but injuries, we need to start counting not just the murder rate, but the non-fatal shooting rate," Shihadeh said. "That's really the measure of violence."

According to Mayor Broome, gun violence, which is both non-fatal and fatal shootings, has been down since 2021.

Shihadeh says that's not necessarily a good marker for the overall state of violent crime in the parish.

"Violent crime was so high during COVID, it had nowhere else to go but down," Shihadeh said. "If you use the extremes as your starting point, you're always going to get what statisticians call regression toward the mean. It can only head back to the mean."

According to the District Attorney's office, in 2019 there were 81 homicides. In 2020, 118; 2021, a record 149; 2022, 114, and last year there were 102.

"The proper marker for crime in the community is to look at crime as it was before COVID because since this was a COVID event this spike in crime in Baton Rouge, in Montreal, in Paris, everywhere," Shihadeh said. "The proper marker is 2019."

This means the so-called goal would be to drop below 81 homicides, which is a statistic that hasn't been seen since 2016 when there were 62.

2016, Shihadeh says, was another critical turning point for violent crime.

"It really began in 2016, right after the flood when the community got disorganized again, and crime went up," Shihadeh said.

Both critical events—the aftermath of the 2016 floods and COVID—happened during Mayor Broome's tenure and were out of her control. However, Shihadeh says what was in her control was the city's response.

"How fast a city responds to that spike is an indicator of the public administration in the city," Shihadeh said.

Mayor Broome acknowledges the violent crime rate is not where it needs to be. She says a plan to further reduce it will be revealed when new police chief Thomas Morse takes office next week.

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