BRAVE program receives $1.5 million in federal funding for use over next three years

POSTED: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 10:56pm

UPDATED: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 9:44am

Wednesday East Baton Rouge Parish leaders and law enforcement officials announced the city is now on the receiving end of a $1.5 million federal grant for the BRAVE initiative. The fledgling program sets out to cut down on crime in the 70805 zip code, statistically one of the most crime-ridden areas in the parish.

BRAVE officers have been on the streets of the 70805 less than three months, but already residents there say they're feeling safer.

"Things have gotten a lot better than they were before, because most people are afraid of police, so they're choice is to either stay inside or just be safe,” Brandi Harris, a resident of the 70805, said.

"I’ve seen a lot of them (police) riding around, which means they're trying to do something, which is good," added Eugena Cheffin, another resident of the 70805.

Hope Ministries, one of several agencies working with BRAVE officers under the grant funding, will focus on mentoring and helping those in the community with employment opportunities.

"Nothing stops a bullet like a job, and that's true. so really helping with getting employment. and helping also with the behavioral and social skills, those soft skills that people need to be successful in our community," explained Janet Simmons with Hope Ministries.

Those heading up the program have already said the real progress won't be clearly visible until the initiative is in full swing, something that will begin now the federal grant has been allocated. One of the key components to the program will be a so called ‘Call In’. The call in will consist of bringing in 25 individuals to talk to law enforcement in the coming months. This group will be told they've been identified as trouble-makers in the community and offered ways to turn their lives around.

"When they get called in and offered the services, then we'll be able to keep track and you'll be able to see a progressively lower number of violent crime," Herbert ‘Tweety’ Anny, director of the BRAVE program, explained.

While the Call-In's have yet to take place, those living in the 70805 maintain they're just happy to see any kind of progress in the right direction.

"Yeah I can say that I am happy, they’re doing all that they can to help the community out and that's all we can ask," Cheffin added.

The majority of the grant money will be used to analyze crime data to identify suspects BRAVE should target for their services, and to fund caseworkers and resources in the community.

Though law enforcement officials maintain crime levels in the 70805 are headed down in recent months, the overall numbers when compared with this time last year are still far above average. According to data released from the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner's office, since BRAVE officers hit the streets on June 19th there have been six murders in the 70805. Compare that to last year, during the same time period, there were just four murders in the same zip code. Parish wide the number of homicides between June 19, 2012 and September 5, 2012 has hit 30. Compared to last year during that same time frame, the number of homicides numbered 19.

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