As Baton Rouge faces an unprecedented rate of murders, the city is training teams of residents to intervene before violence happens.
The "Baton Rouge Street Teams" will work in the 70802 and 70805 ZIP codes, which stretch from the edge of Scotlandville to north of LSU's campus. They include 10 participants and will take a two-prong approach: high-risk intervention to mediate conflicts as they arise, and assertive outreach, which will provide ongoing assistance to community members in need.
Aqueela Sherrills, executive director of the Community Based Public Safety Collective and training leader for the program, said the street teams won't try to substitute police presence in emergency situations. Instead, they will complement police by providing the community with someone who knows their neighborhoods and can potentially relate to them better.
"The difference is that we're just honing in people into these communities who know folks," said Sherrills. "There's no antagonistic relationship, because there's a gulf between law enforcement and community right now with all that's happening across the country."
In a training session Thursday, Sherrills and Aquil Basheer, founder of the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, taught participants a number of protocols to follow in order to best assess a high-risk situation, minimize danger and provide the best form of care to community members.