LSU research team touts success of BRAVE Project

LSU research team touts success of BRAVE Project
Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 6:00am

UPDATED: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 6:04am

Members of the BRAVE Project revealed new data showing that the joint effort is making Baton Rouge safer.

The BRAVE Project's goal is to use cooperation, compassion, and computers to end gang violence in the most dangerous parts of town.

Local law enforcement leaders and researchers from LSU gave a presentation about their methods and findings Thursday afternoon.

"It's rare that we get an opportunity to really showcase how research comes into play, and how research really can affect the daily lives of just about everybody," said F. King Alexander, LSU's president and chancellor.

The BRAVE Project began in 2012. It tracks teenagers who are suspected of being gang members and offers them assistance in exchange for leaving their lives of crime. If they decline the project's resources and are caught committing a crime, the District Attorney's office seeks maximum punishments against them.

Since 2012, the murder rates in the 70802 and 70805 zip codes have dropped by 20 percent. Analysts at LSU said Thursday that holds true for nearly every neighborhood in those parts of town, with some seeing reductions as large as 85 percent. They also said that violent crime rates, on a one month moving average, were lower every day of 2013 than they were any day of 2012.

"It's definitely met our expectations," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie. "Of course, you know, this is just the beginning, we have a very long way to go."

Aside from using patterns to show crimes that have already happened, the researchers from LSU want to use the data they collect to predict and prevent the future.

 "Which group is likely to turn into an organized gang down the road? If we can figure that out," said Tracey Rizzuto, BRAVE's social network analyst, "we can help law enforcement focus their efforts in more resourceful ways."

"It's one thing to apprehend criminals and to get people off the streets," mentioned Cecile Guin, Director of the LSU School of Social Work's Office of Social Service Research and Development, "but where we've really got to go with this as a community is to figure out a way to help children become productive citizens and avoid following a pathway into crime." 

Mayor Kip Holden praised everyone from the police officers on the ground to the researchers at the university for making a visible difference in our safety.

"And the work that they continue to do says Baton Rouge is ready to demonstrate to others across this country how to go in, change a community and put people at ease when it comes to safety in their areas," he said.

Every year, police departments have to report statistics about violent crime. Dabadie says his department will release its numbers next week, and it should give a better indication of the impact of the BRAVE project. One LSU researcher suggested that Baton Rouge would rank among the top five cities in the country for largest reductions in violent crime.

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