Local business leaders aim to counteract crime with privately funded program
BATON ROUGE- A group of local business leaders are committing over half a million dollars for a crime-fighting initiative that will replace the shuttered BRAVE program.
The East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office released its annual crime report, and with unprecedented homicide numbers in 2017, Hillar Moore says it's time to act.
The Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Program, or BRAVE, ended last year when it ran out of funding. The city hasn't been able to find room in its budget to replace it, so a local private funding source stepped up to the plate.
Led by Jim Bernhard, the group has committed $540,000 for a new program modeled after criminologist David Kennedy's Safe Communities project.
In an effort to stop domestic violence homicides, District Attorney Hillar Moore says the money will also go toward starting a new gun policy that gets the message out about the danger of illegal firearms.
"This means a lot. This means that we are now able to refocus again," Moore told WBRZ. "There's going to be a lot of accountability with this money, and I believe that you're going to see a decrease in homicides."
The end goal? To save lives. Which is why Jim Bernhard wanted to donate the money.
"People will live in Baton Rouge, thanks to this money being donated. A worthy cause by any means," Bernhard said.
But Bernhard says his private donation is not enough. He urges lawmakers to find room in the budget for the cause.
"Right now we're putting up private money. Will we find public money to do this next year? If we can find $600,000 to do Country Fest, we can find $600,000 to save twenty or thirty lives," Bernhard told WBRZ.
Officials say the new program could go into effect as early as June.