Faith & Force: A look inside of the BRAVE program
POSTED: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - 11:32pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 9:05am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — For the first time in a long time a program has worked to help curb and lower violent crime in some of the most dangerous areas of the Capitol city.
Around here they're known as the 'jump-out boys', they patrol some of the most violent streets in the Capitol city, weeding out the trouble makers and helping the people who *really* want it.
"We make sure that we make our presence known on a weekly basis. Today we observed maybe about four or five subjects standing outside. Just wanted to make contact with them, let them know we're still in the area, see if they're working, see if anybody is in school, anything like that," explained Sgt. Troy Lawrence of the BRAVE team
The team has made their share of arrests over the last year, but for the BRAVE team it's not all about the number of people they put behind bars. They are using a new kind of policing model, one that gets them out in the community, developing relationships. It's those relationships that eventually lead to tips on who and where the trouble-makers are.
"When we're out riding sometimes we'll get out and say, 'hey here's my card, I am Sgt. Lawrence, Baton Rouge police department BRAVE team. If you have any questions call me, I'll be more than happy to talk to you, you don't have to give me your name, if you could just give me information that would be helpful," shared Lawrence.
The officers also use that relationship they have built to encourage people to change, and better themselves, and in turn their communities.
"They're trying to persuade them to get off the corners, contact my office so we can help them become self-sufficient. People often forget that brave has resources for some of the causitive factors of crime like illiteracy, substance abuse, poverty. We have free educational components. Free GED, free vocational training," explained Herbert ‘Tweety’ Anny, director of the BRAVE program.
Marcia Renee Pete lives in the 70805, she knows all too well what trouble-makers can do to a neighborhood, a family and a community. Just a few years ago her son was shot and killed, while he was walking down the street with a friend, just a few months shy of high school graduation.
"It's no pain like losing a child, because when you lose a child, because when you lose a child, a part of you is always missing, you'll never get that back and the rest of your life you will feel that missing part," shared Pete.
Ms. Renee, as she's known around the neighborhood, works with the BRAVE program helping in any way she can to clean up the streets of her neighborhood. She believes it's the officers' relationship with people like her that really make the program work.
"The fact that we have an awesome set of police that's willing to come to our neighborhood and be seen, be heard and to help, and to be there at the drop of a hat. We didn't have that, whenever we would call 911 or we would call the police it would take them like 30 minutes to come out. Now when you call them, they're there," added Pete.
For two months after the programs first 'call-in' murder didn't touch these streets. but it's not just the strong arm of the law at work here, for some it's faith that makes all the difference.
"Grace, you know there are consequences for peoples actions. There are, there are consequences if you broke the law, there are consequences for that. But then you have faith come to say, 'guess what there are consequences, but yes you can be forgiven. You know, there is forgiveness, people do care, you don't have to live that life of crime," explained Tonja Myles.
Myles works through her ministry network named Set Free Indeed to reach and mentor young men and woman, many of whom live in the 70805 and 70802 zip codes. She feels that many young men decide to turn their lives around when they believe they can be forgiven by a higher power.
Church groups and faith leaders have teamed up across the city, working with BRAVE to get out the message of non-violence.
"To come together for the common good, that's one of the main focuses of BRAVE. Because if you can get the churches to come together, and you can get the community to come together, I mean there are churches all over our city that are doing great work," shared Myles.
The BRAVE program hasn't stopped crime completely, but it has slowed it down.
The murder rate is down 30% and the ten brave officers alone have made more than 680 arrests, taking guns, weapons, and drugs off the streets. With more time and a lot of community support brave supporters hope to eliminate crime, one person at a time.
"If they can see him making an impact in the community then hopefully we can get them to follow. Hopefully it can spread. That's our main objective here. if we can touch the heart and soul of one, that will help us out, and hopefully that will spread out," explained Sgt. Lawrence.
The BRAVE program has recently received a grant to continue and expand the work it does.