LSU Professors talk reasons behind crime culture in Baton Rouge

POSTED: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 9:30pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 9:34pm

"Crime comes naturally to people that are not really connected to people,” said LSU Professor of Sociology Ed Shihadeh. “The question is what prevents us from committing that’s the real riddle."

Shihadeh along with his colleague Matthew Lee, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research & Economic Development at LSU, have spent years studying data trying to figure out what factors cause crime in the community.

One factor they believe is a lack of social anchors. They say many young men are lost, so the men turn to the street.

"Floaters are young men of crime prone age who are disconnected from all institutions," said Shihadeh.

Shihadeh said men between 15 and 24 years old are most likely to commit crime and they are at risk of becoming a victim.

 "They aren't connecting with anything. They are not in school. They are not in the military. They are not in the labor force. They don’t have a job," said Shihadeh.

Matthew lee says another part of the violence problem in Baton Rouge is the drug market.

“The structure of markets themselves,” said Lee. “They are very lucrative. There is a tremendous amount of competition between opposing drug factions, because it operates outside the law when there are problems participants in the market tend to handle it themselves through violence.”

According to their research the uptick in crime began back around 2003, 2004. They say that factors like lower education, a lack of jobs, and poverty all play a role in the areas most associated with crime. Shihadeh says blight is a big indicator of an area’s risk to develop crime.

“Vacant housing can turn into crack houses,” said Shihadeh. “Places where people can do things that are beyond the view or the monitoring or control of the community.”

Shihadeh says so far there have been around 50 murders in the city of Baton Rouge and that number could grow.

"My back of the envelope calculations show we could end up between 80 and 90 murders this year and that's as high as I’ve ever seen it,” said Shihadeh. “We need to deal with it, and we need to deal with it now. "

As for fixing the problem, the criminologists say it will take more than police work to get the job done. According to their research in Baton Rouge’s most crime ridden areas people have a severe mistrust of police. Lee says in order to bridge that divide community leaders like faith based organizations need to join in the effort to curb crime.

“If it can be demonstrated that they are interested in working with the police and in helping to sure up their objective, which is to reduce violence crime and help provide to safer communities,” said Lee.

Lee says right now approximately a half dozen faculty from LSU are working with the B.R.A.V.E. program.

He says, “The role of the LSU group is to provide data analytic and statistical support to local law enforcement as a means to enhance law enforcements efforts to curb violent crime in select Baton Rouge communities, starting with area code 70805.”  

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