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Despite fears, Baton Rouge crime rates are actually falling

Louisiana's news media have recently been busy reporting some alarming high-profile violent crimes in Baton Rouge. January saw at least nine murders, making it a very violent month.

These reports tend to scare the public, who may fear a crime epidemic and demand police attention to stop it. However, police statistics show that, these high-profile cases aside, crime rates, and the number of criminal charges, are falling in Baton Rouge.

A new report shows that murders, rapes and robberies increased in 2012 when compared with 2011, but the majority of these violent crimes were in the first part of the year. Violent crimes fell in the second half of 2012. Overall numbers of what the police call "major crimes" fell in 2012 as well. Major crimes typically include criminal charges of murder or manslaughter, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and arson. Rates for these crimes have been falling in Baton Rouge more or less consistently for more than a decade. The city's rate of serious crime is down 33 percent from where it was in 2000.

At the same time, crime rates in Baton Rouge remain higher than the national average. According to some reports, the number of murders in Baton Rouge is higher than the number in New Orleans. These figures and the high-profile cases tend to give the public the impression of a crisis.

When high-profile violent crime cases show up in the media, the police come under a lot of pressure. In their haste to arrest someone, they sometimes arrest the wrong person or make other mistakes. One of the foundations of our criminal justice system is that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. That means every defendant deserves a strong defense. When the police have acted unlawfully in arresting or interrogating someone, the evidence they obtained must be thrown out.

Source: The Advocate, "'Major crime' down in BR in '12," Jim Mustian, Feb. 26, 2013

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