National Spotlight: A Timeline of Public Safety in Baton Rouge

May 2, 2024

This week, Baton Rouge’s community violence efforts were nationally featured in The New York Times and the National Criminal Justice Association, written by Mark Obbie. 

Through the lens of the Baton Rouge Community Street Team, The NY Times highlighted the emotional lived experiences that connected their team to the work. The story also showed how we have began to bridge measuring actions taken to the impact of violence on a quantitative scale. While the data focus is a pointed conversation we strategize on currently, acknowledging where we have come since 2017 tells a deeper story of investment, partner collaboration, and how Baton Rouge is in the right direction for a violence-free community.

How did we get here? In the article "How a Local CVI Program Won Outside Help," Obbie explores the path of the initial federal grants—like the $750,000 Collective Healing Initiative—and sustained private investments that built the collaborative Public Safety Ecosystem that thrives in Baton Rouge today. 

Looking back on a tragic season of loss and unrest from the death of Alton Sterling and six police officers in 2017, the state of peace and unity in Baton Rouge was at a critical point. We needed a way to mend the police-community relations, addressing the needs of residents who felt unheard and even distrusting of those put in place to protect them. As the article continues, it navigates the beginning of light at the end of the tunnel for Baton Rouge's community policing efforts and the future of unity in a city divided. 

In 2017, Jazzika Matthews, now the Director of Operations of Safe Hopeful Healthy Baton Rouge, shared a highly competitive federal grant directed to communities like Baton Rouge that desperately needed healing to learn and move forward from the tragedies that year. Baton Rouge, chosen along with only four other cities awarded the Collective Healing Initiative grant, planted seeds of community public safety that we continue to build on through the current Public Safety Ecosystem. 

Fortunately, those seeds sprouted into multiple opportunities to fund the work. They offered technical assistance, resourcing the gaps in knowledge with experts in the violence intervention space like Newark's public safety lead, Aqeela Sherrills. 

As federal and private funding increased for community public safety, Baton Rouge leaned in even more through the leadership and investment of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. In 2019, Mayor Broome formally joined the Cities United Network for cities intentionally strategizing to reduce violence. Following that significant step, in 2020, Mayor Broome announced $2.2 million in CARES Act funding for Community-Based Public Safety, which led to the creation of Safe Hopeful Healthy Baton Rouge

Since 2020, we have collaborated with numerous local and national community partners, grassroots organizations, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and the residents of Baton Rouge to work towards a hopeful, more peaceful city. In 2022, we created the Public Safety Ecosystem Meetings, dedicated to sharing prominent information, spotlighting the work of our partners, and mobilizing attendees on ways to contribute to violence intervention and prevention. Programs like School Based Outreach (SBO) focus on prevention through youth mentoring and discussions. In conjunction, the Baton Rouge Community Street Team intervenes in violence through street walks, mediation, and anti-retaliation tactics. 

Another initiative is the Summer of Hope, now an annual season of joyful events, community canvassing, and grassroots activities to encourage a safe summer–usually a period of peaked violence. We are nearing the completion of the next step in Baton Rouge's path to a safer community. Safe Hopeful Healthy Baton Rouge, partnered with the Cities United Roadmap Academy, is building the next part of the story through the Public Safety Roadmap. 

The Roadmap, anticipated to be released in the upcoming weeks, has taken almost a year to collectively discuss community safety concerns, solutions, and implementation. These programs are just a highlight of the work that has continued since the initial investment in 2017. President Biden's initial grant focused on healing communities with tense police relationships opened the door for our city to truly begin to heal from the inside. That work is still in progress, but a significant impact has been made, with more transformation to come. 

As mentioned in the article, "A City Tries to Measure the Violence It's Preventing," we consistently work with crime data experts and data analysts to ensure that the investments lead to overall violence reduction in Baton Rouge. Even though the exact methodologies behind this measurement and innovative data visualizations are still being determined, one thing is sure: Baton Rouge is positioned for more investment in public safety and a violence-free future. 

Share this post
Program Manager-Partnerships