UPDATE: We spoke too soon, because Baton Rouge has struck again…
ORIGINAL: The Baton Rouge Police Department is down an astonishing 100 officers from its capacity, and morale within the department is at an all-time low.
That’s a circumstance which exists independently – to an extent – from the city’s out-of-control murder rate, which is now higher than ever before.
Last year there were 136 murders in Baton Rouge, which was a record. This year, which still has 65 days left in it, there are now possibly 138 after two people were shot overnight in an apartment building on Longridge Avenue (which used to be a halfway decent place to live not all that long ago).
Two people were shot and killed at an apartment complex on Longridge Avenue around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Sources said one of the deaths was possibly a suicide.
No more details about the case were immediately available.
While authorities have not ruled this investigation as a homicide, East Baton Rouge Parish tied the record for homicides in 2020. There have been 136 homicides in 2021 so far.
Baton Rouge mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome and the BRPD’s chief Murphy Paul have been talking around this problem for more than a year, telling the people of the city that “we can do better.” But the fact is that the cops have lost control of the streets and the street violence happening in this city is worse now than it’s ever been.
There are three things going on right now which have combined to produce the horror taking place in Baton Rouge.
First is the aftereffect of the Alton Sterling case. The position of the Baton Rouge city-parish government, as expressed in its having agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement to Sterling’s family for his having been shot by a policeman with whom he was fighting for possession of that policeman’s service weapon, is that it stands with the criminal class over the law-abiding. A revolving-door legal system and a grossly-neglected police force which has been badly treated and given zero support has led to Baton Rouge having one of the nation’s most severe cases of the Ferguson effect.
The year Sterling was shot there were 83 murders in Baton Rouge. When the effects of that shooting began to manifest themselves that number jumped to 124 in 2017, then declined to 105 in 2018 and 97 in 2019 before sparking back up to 136 last year. The elevation in the city’s murder rate can be directly traced to the Sterling incident. The only year in which the murder rate in Baton Rouge rivaled that of the past four years was post-Katrina 2007, when there were 107 murders.
The second problem is leadership. Baton Rouge is a city in the throes of decline, and the poorer parts of town are declining at a rapid pace. With decline comes hopelessness and behavioral pathology. It takes leadership – in the police department and among the political class – in order to reverse decline and get people thinking about doing positive things in their lives. And Broome is anything but a leader. She specializes in useless gestures and spewing gobbledygook rather than solving problems. She’s allowing homelessness and aggressive panhandling to take over the city, there is no economic development of any note happening within Baton Rouge, she’s ignored public safety and the obvious need to focus on it. She’s the classic urban Democrat who ignores basic issues of governance to pander to various faddish interest groups.
Go have a look at the city of Baton Rouge’s website and you’ll see just how engaged Broome is. Here’s a screenshot of the latest press releases…
Sure, the city ought to be working on Hurricane Ida recovery. Or actually, it ought to be more or less done with that. Ida was a good while ago, after all. Two months to pick up tree trash is really more than enough time to have that job completed.
And nothing on the spiraling murder rate, the most basic issue of governance in Baton Rouge. You will search high and low without success to find press releases on that issue.
The final reason the murder rate is out of control in this city is the governmental overreaction to COVID-19. The social isolation the state and city demanded of people last year had the same effect here that it did everywhere else governments intervened to separate people from their friends, and while the only real remnant of that in Baton Rouge is a mask mandate relatively few people observe anymore, the effects of the lockdowns have lingered.
Throw people off a positive track in their lives and you will find them struggling, and often they will descend into a negative spiral.
The COVID lockdowns only exacerbated major problems Baton Rouge already had plenty of. Now it’s a whole city in a tailspin. And the current leadership which has locked Baton Rouge into that situation has three years before the next election (and there is no particular reason to hope any real change in direction would come even if the Broomes, Chauna Bankses and Lamont Coles were to be changed out for somebody else capable of winning local elections here) has no interest in fixing anything.
Nor are they interested in allowing parts of the parish to incorporate and try different approaches. By now the lawsuits against the aspirational city of St. George should have been settled, but they won’t be, and it’s going to take the Louisiana Supreme Court to decide them (something which shouldn’t be necessary; people have a constitutional right to incorporate cities in unincorporated areas, and there is no legal reason St. Georgians shouldn’t enjoy that right).
The murder rate will eventually come down in Baton Rouge. When it does, it’ll probably come down as a result of a significant decrease in population as people throw up their hands and move away.
You’d expect the city’s political class to be horrified at that prospect. They aren’t. They’re fine with it, because they know most of the people who’ll be leaving aren’t their voters.
It isn’t just the citizens being murdered in Baton Rouge. It’s the city itself. And while the cops usually don’t solve the individual murders the murderers of the city are easy to identify.