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Baton Rouge ‘community street teams’ aim to stop gun violence | The Advocate

Instead of guns and handcuffs, a new team of Baton Rogue residents is relying on a different tool to try and halt the city's high and rapidly rising homicide rate: trust.

The city broke its record for homicides last year and is on pace to see even more this year. According to a Byrne Criminal Justice Grant application submitted by the city in 2013, the gun violence is concentrated in the 70802 and 70805 ZIP codes, which include Eden Park, Istrouma, Greenville Extension, Midtown, Smiley Heights, Fairfields and Melrose East.

Characterized as “hotspots,” the grant application argued poverty, disinvestment, lack of education, limited jobs and disempowerment are what's driving crime in the neighborhoods. As one possible solution, the city has created the Baton Rouge Community Street Teams Unit.

The idea is that police crackdowns can't address those root causes of violence — but people with history and trust in those neighborhoods can. The team members are carefully chosen for their backgrounds and records of community involvement.

“We understand because we have skin in the game," member Gregory Phillips said. "You can’t be in an ivory tower dictating what people should do. You have to be in the trenches.”

Before each outing, the unit assembles to discuss the assignment ahead and hand out roles.

From day to day, members take turns being the engager, who introduces the street team to residents and explains the group’s purpose; the recorder, who takes down suggestions from residents about changes they’d like to see in their community; the navigator, who helps with security and directs the team where to go; and the High-Risk Interventionists — the ones dispatched to the scenes of violent crimes to speak with family of the victim and offer support.


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