Mayor Broome holds community meeting about violence
BATON ROUGE - It was a long and emotional meeting Tuesday evening at the Main Library on Goodwood Drive with a diverse crowd all calling for an end to violence in the city. Leaders said the spike in recent days doesn't represent the overall trend with crime but it definitely got their attention.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called the meeting after some 13 people were shot from late Friday night to early Monday morning. Among the injured was a 14-year-old girl near the Mall of Louisiana.
Probably the most disturbing scene was the seven people injured Saturday inside a nightclub on Florida Boulevard during a gunfight that was caught on camera. At the meeting Tuesday, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul blamed the club owners and concert promoters for lax security.
"If [the patrons] were searched at the door it wouldn't have happened," he said.
Law enforcement called out a "culture of violence" in which they only have so much influence. Chief Paul asked community members to call police before feuds boil over and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said adults need to be better role models to impoverished youth.
"You ask [young people] where they're going to be in five years and they look you dead in the eye and say, 'probably dead or in jail'," said Gautreaux.
City leaders did point out the number of social programs already at work, like Truce, which aims to get at-risk youth placed in jobs and provide counseling.
Director Aishala Burgess said business owners need to help.
"We have to give our young people a second chance," she said. "We can't expect a felon to be productive in society if no one is willing to give them an opportunity to work."
Many in the crowd said the problem starts at home. One resident said violence in Baton Rouge is getting as bad as large cities like Chicago. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome disagreed.
"Baton Rouge is not Chicago and Baton Rouge will not be Chicago," she said. "If you want to work with us as we are solution-driven, my hand is out to you."
Leaders called on community members to work together to end the violence. They also said violent crime is down overall since its height in 2017.