‘Blood-soaked headlines’ harming Baton Rouge’s image, criminologist says

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 10:45 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Since Sunday night, Sept. 25, at least six people have been shot in Baton Rouge.

One of those shootings happened right in front of police headquarters.

We’ve heard Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul blame gangs for the rise in crime, but is that all there is to it?

“You should be concerned, but you should not live in fear, and don’t change your entire life over it,” said Dr. Edward Shihadeh, professor of sociology and criminology at LSU.

While crime is nothing new to Baton Rouge, It’s hard to escape the news or alerts on your phone. And that violence has a cost.

“Every time these things make the newspaper, when you have blood-soaked headlines, there’s a business owner who doesn’t want to locate to Baton Rouge, there’s an investor who doesn’t want to invest in Baton Rouge. How many parks, how many roads, how many opportunities have we lost because of this crime. Crime is a cancer, and it harms the city,” said Dr. Shihadeh.

Shihadeh believes crime has risen across the world and in our area since the pandemic.

“It’s not the virus itself that causes the increase in crime. But anytime there’s a big social disruption, crime goes up. It happened in Baghdad right after the U.S. invasion. It happened in New Orleans right after (Hurricane) Katrina. It happened in Baton Rouge right after the flood, where crime just shot through the roof,” he said.

Of all the recent cases, the Allie Rice case has gripped the community’s attention.

As investigators try to determine a motive in her murder, all signs point to it being a random act of violence.

“These random shootings are the ones that generate the most public fear. So, we have murders over drugs, and over gangs, and over beefs with people with gangs. People can sort of put that in a category and say, it’s too bad it’s happening but it’s not in my world,” he said.

But Shihadeh says cases of random violence are rare.

“Your chances of being killed in a car accident and other types of accidents are much higher. Yes, it’s terrifying but keep it in perspective,” he said.

But perspective can be hard to find when the crimes seem bolder.

Earlier this year we saw a deadly drive-by double shooting in broad daylight outside of the Mall of Louisiana.

Just last night someone opened fire literally outside of BRPD headquarters on Airline.

“It’s usually gangs or drugs or some kind of beef people are having, and these can happen anywhere. When somebody’s got a score to settle, they don’t care who else is on the street, they don’t care where it happens. They have the single-minded purpose to settle that score. That’s gang life, that’s drug life, that’s how it is,” said Dr. Shihadeh.

He says while you’re bound to be concerned, you can’t just lock yourself in your home forever.

“It’s nowhere near where it needs to be. The homicide rate is still high, but it’s headed in the right direction. I can’t say the same thing for New Orleans,” said Shihadeh.

So far this year in East Baton Rouge Parish there have been 106 homicides, according to the coroner’s office.

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