By Nick BeJeaux
The decline of violence in and around Baton Rouge has been interrupted a few times this month, but compared to last year’s statistics, the rate of violence continues to remain significantly lower.
In 2013, the Baton Rouge Police Department reported 49 homicides as opposed to the 67 in 2012. Rapes were also down from 70 in 2012 to 52 in 2013. According to redsticknow.com, 12 murders have been committed so far this year – nine of them were shootings. This time last year, 24 murders had been committed – again, most of them were shootings. But one thing about this year’s statistics stands out, apart from the fact that they’re significantly lower: The average age of the murderer is 21 years old and younger.
Youth violence in Baton Rouge has been a major headache for District Attorney Hillar Moore, who said it was “getting old” after a teenage shooter killed three in Baker earlier this month. Moore, along with Mayor Kip Holden, spoke with students at Capitol High School last week about violence in their lives and how they can overcome it.
“Our dream is that one day, we wake up, nothing bad happens and nobody goes to jail or gets killed,” said Moore. “I think that when teenagers commit crimes like this or take matters into their own hands it’s because they feel a lack of legitimacy. They don’t feel that police or law enforcement do their job.”
Moore pointed out that younger people tend to have underdeveloped conflict resolution skills and that it’s possible to trace the motives behind youth violence begin with something as simple as a mean word, or even a small shove.
The pair sat on a panel in the school’s library with other members of the LSU-backed Baton Rouge Violence Elimination program. The panel answered questions from students, but Holden offered the teens advice and encouraged the students to break through the “status quo.”
“Respect and love are very important,” he said. “ It’s just like when you play basketball and you hug a teammate that has done something really outstanding. When you do that you’re expressing how much you appreciate them. Just because I do that doesn’t mean I’m gay or whatever – but somebody may call you that. But you know exactly who you are.”
Holden said that no one should ever have to be put down by another, but teens don’t have to prove who they are by “punching someone out, shooting somebody, or stabbing somebody.”
“In the Bible it says love thy neighbor as you love yourself – you wouldn’t beat yourself up,” said Holden.