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May 25th, 2004

Crime in Baton Rouge

I wrote this piece last week and wasn't going to post it because, seriously, who cares about the crime in Baton Rouge?

Then a terrible thing happened at the Wal-Mart I used to visit at least once a week - a man getting arrested for shoplifting got the gun away from the police officer, a 51-year old woman, and shot and killed her. He also shot two people who were trying to help her, one of them a security guard. He then ran outside, carjacked someone outside and got away. He turned himself in just recently.

I can't tell you how many times I and my friends have shopped in this particular Wal-Mart late at nite, and all times of the day. It's not in the best neighborhood, but it isn't necessarily in a bad one either. I recognize the police woman - she was always there. After hearing about this, I thought my piece just might be relevant after all:

What in the hell is wrong with Baton Rouge? As if this fuckass sorry-excuse-for-a-city wasn't already visually ugly and full of ignorant, old-fashioned, horrible-driving asshats it now has to be one of the most unsafe places to live in the country.

Unknown to many people, Baton Rouge has pretty much always had a higher crime rate, per capita, than the sinfully renowned New Orleans. It doesn't appear to be improving.

As many of you are likely aware, last year found southern Louisiana gripped in fear and panic over a shadowy serial killer. The nameless monster we now know as Derrick Todd Lee was captured May 27, 2003 and the rest of the world soon forgot about Louisiana and its serial killer troubles.

It was a different story for the residents of my home state. Though two other murdered women were linked to Lee via DNA, bringing his total killed to seven, there were still too many unsolved murders floating around for anyone to be comfortable. What hasn't made the national headlines is that last month, April 28, 2004, Sean Vincent Gillis was arrested for the murder of eight other women in southern Louisiana. Looking at the timeline of the murders, this means that from 1994 up until February of this year, with the death of Donna Bennett Johnson, there were two serial killers on the loose and on the prowl.

All you can think at this point is, "That's the two they've found!" There are still unsolved murders that can't be linked to either of these men. If there can be two sickos out there at one time killing innocent people, why can't there be more? Louisiana is getting quite the reputation for churning out lesser life forms.

Everyone remembers the Washington Sniper, John Allen Muhammed. But does everyone remember where the Washington Sniper was from? That's right, Baton Rouge - born and raised. In an amazingly small number of years Louisiana, namely Baton Rouge, has managed to churn out three serial killers.

That's a lot of really sick people hailing from one location. Yet the number of serial killings is nothing compared to the simple old meat-and-potatoes murder that happens every day in Baton Rouge. Yes, every day in Baton Rouge someone gets shot. Every day. Just last week a co-workers' teen brother was killed in a drive-by; he was standing on his porch.

You might be reading this and thinking, "That's no big deal. It's a city - that's what it's like in every city." But this is Baton Rouge, people - it isn't like any other city at all. This is not New York or Chicago with miles and miles of concrete jungle and corporate skyscrapers. Baton Rouge's tallest building, its State Capitol, only has 34 floors. Public transportation is a joke for the fact that the city is so wide and sparse there are parts that buses just don't go to. I call Baton Rouge a "suburban city"; it is a fitting moniker. The people here have a small-town mentality, and if it weren't for the mighty Mississip flowing right through this place, it'd be a horrible choice for a state capitol. There's nothing showy or big or fancy about Baton Rouge. It's a big town with a bigger-than-itself title. The fact that crime is as rampant here as in the streets of New Orleans (which is much more a "real" city), or other real cities like New York or Washington D.C., frightens me.

Louisiana is second in the nation when it comes to stupid kids. No, let's be blunt here. We don't give a rats ass about education in this state - if we did, then we wouldn't have illiterate children graduating high school and more than half of the population now dropping out before they even reach high school. Second-to-worse. Could the influx of criminals coming out of southern Louisiana have something to do with our second-rate education system? I've got a hunch it just might.

Louisiana big-thinkers think the answer to wiping out the unlawful and murderous is to throw them in prison. Lock 'em up, and develop a life-with-no-possibility-for-parole system - that'll fix it right up. Yet it hasn't, and it won't. Louisiana prisons are full and getting fuller; low-level offenders are put back out in the street time and time again because there's just no room for them.

Perhaps it's time for a new approach. Let concentrate on our children, so that they don't grow up to be criminals. Let's stop the problem before it starts, rather than trying to put out a brushfire with a handkerchief. Creating bad apples then locking them all up when they began to rot is fruitless (forgive the pun). If we work harder at raising and educating our children, then maybe we wouldn't have so many Derrick Todd Lee's, Sean Vincent Gillis's, and John Allen Muhammed's running around.

What's the future for Baton Rouge? Who wants to raise a family in a town that produces serial killers and murderous criminals at such an alarming rate? Who wants to live in southern Louisiana at all with such people running around? What is it going to take for us to make a change for the better? When Baton Rouge is churning out two new serial killers every year, and hundreds of women have lost their lives, then will they wake up?

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