District Attorney’s Annual Report
District Attorney Hillar Moore told the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge his office has been working closely with the Sheriff, Baton Rouge police chief, superintendent of State Police, and federal authorities to attack violent crime in the parish.
Violent Crime. The DA’s Violent Crime Unit was created in 2010 and works with all detectives and prosecutors in the Baton Rouge area. Weekly homicide file reviews target those arrested and close gaps before going to trial.
Working as a partner in BRAVE, the anti-violent crime effort, the DA has targeted 150 violent gang members who have been called in for one-on-one meetings. They are told to put down their guns and seek assistance or face harsh legal consequences. So far, 25 gang members have voluntarily left the gangs and are working with the DA’s office. Many have entered job programs sponsored by local businesses. They are taught to get their GED, stay drug free, and learn a skill.
Murder Rate. As a result of these and other efforts, Moore said homicides in the parish have been reduced by 20 a year each year since 2013. “As a result, 40 young men last year were not killed, and 40 more have not been incarcerated for life,” he said.
Funding of BRAVE by the Metro Council and the cooperation of law enforcement have been key to this effort, he said.
Victim Assistance. The district attorney has created the Victim Assistance Resources program in his office. Seven staff members meet with crime victims, offer them assistance, often helping them relocate to a safer environment. The work fosters greater trust from witnesses whose testimony is needed in prosecutions.
DWI Prosecution. When it comes to prosecuting DWI’s, the DA said his years as a defense attorney taught him that a DWI offender with the right lawyer could easily escape any real punishment, thereby removing any real incentive for the offender to stop driving under the influence. As a result, his office now makes a DWI first offense into “an absolutely arduous experience for the offender.” Moore said the prosecution of DWI in EBR is intentionally “arduous financially, arduous in time commitments, arduous in supervision, and arduous emotionally.”
“As a result, after five years, our recidivism rate for repeat DWI offenders who graduate from this program is less than three percent,” he said. This compares with 50 percent recidivism in the criminal justice system.
Sexual Assault. In order to expand services to victims of sexual assault, the DA joined with the Sheriff, police, coroner, and health care facilities to start the STAR program, which now has 20 employees working to help victims. Moore said, “We now have two premiere facilities for handling sexual assault victims — adults at Women’s Hospital and children at Our Lady of the Lake.”
Domestic Violence. With funding provided by Mayor Kip Holden, Moore established a Domestic Violence Unit, which is dedicated to fighting what the DA describes as “some of the most serious and challenging cases my office handles.”
He said crime statistics show domestic violence murders are second only to gang-related murders.
During 2015, Moore is working with researchers at LSU to produce hotlists of frequent domestic violence offenders. He is also working with the 911 center to track repeated locations of 911 domestic violence calls.
Truancy. The district attorney said, “Baton Rouge cannot build jails big enough to hold all of the criminals coming our way unless we intervene at the source.” As a result, BRAVE is targeting juvenile offenders. Moore said, “One of our most notorious murderers was Michael Louding, who committed six murders before the age of 17.” The DA helped created the Family Youth and Service Center, which intervenes and has helped reduce the truancy rate by 24 percent and the juvenile crime rate by 25 percent.
With 160 employees, including 60 prosecutors, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s office has a 95 percent conviction rate. Moore has a budget of only $11.1 million, which is low compared to Orleans with a budget of $14.5 million and Jefferson with $18.5 million. As a result, the DA says his staff is underpaid, and it is increasingly difficult to keep good people. He said the Mayor and Council have promised to increase his budget, and he is counting on them to fulfill their commitment.
The Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge is open to business owners in the parish. It meets on the 4th Tuesday at 12 noon at Café Américain. For information, go to www.Chamber EBR.com