POSTED: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 6:45pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 5, 2013 - 6:49pm
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Many people who live in the 70805 zip code say they do not know what BRAVE is. Those who do say it is slowly making their part of town a better place than it used to be.
"It's gotten a whole better over here, in that area," said Leonard Williams. "I see a whole lot more police patrols than we had been seeing."
He used to live on Clayton Drive before moving to Beech Street in 2006.
"It got so bad over there, man... the street lights was out, it was dark all the time," he said. "You almost didn't want to leave your house unless you was in the car with somebody else."
Renee Pete has a different view of 70805. Her son was shot and killed in July 2007.
"That was two days before my birthday. I have never had a good birthday since that day."
The murder sent her life into a tailspin.
"When my son was killed, I could not work any longer," she said, "because I was afraid for my other two sons. I resigned from Our Lady of the Lake hospital, where I worked 12 years."
After that, she became an advocate for victims' families. On Wednesday, she spoke to a call-in of gang members organized by BRAVE.
"And what I have been doing for five years is trying to save all of you," she told them, "because I don't want your mother or your family members to go through what I went through."
She has worked with more than 250 families who lost loved ones to violence. She told invitees at the BRAVE meeting that it is not too late for them to change their lives.
"Don't be one of those young people who come to me later in life and tell me, 'I should have listened,'" she said.
Williams agrees that giving gang members an opportunity to better themselves is the right thing for Baton Rouge.
"Send 'em to school! Give them some kind of job training or something, let them learn how to do some other things," Williams said.
He blamed the high crime in north Baton Rouge rate on a circle of violence that comes from broken homes.
"They do what they have to do, and they do what they know," he said of criminals. "If they had somebody to give them a little bit more guidance and they had other places to stay and where they could go and learn some skills, and learn how to do things, I believe they come up in the community and be better and all."
Even if BRAVE does its job and cuts down on violence, the 70805 zip code has a long way to go, both in reputation and reality.
"There were more than 90 victims lost to violence just last year alone," Pete said.
"70805 ain't as bad as they try to make it out to be," Williams claimed. "Because it ain't where you live, it's how you live."