BR Neighborhoods Consider Fees for Crime Prevention

Dec 6, 2012

Residents of Melrose East and Mayfair will decide Saturday whether to charge themselves extra parcel fees to pay for more security in their neighborhoods.

WRKF’s Ashley Westerman visited one of the neighborhoods in Baton Rouge that already has a crime prevention district to see what impact it’s had.

(L to R) David Alvear, president of the Wedgewood security district, and Scott Wilfong, president of the Wedgewood Civic Association.
Credit WRKF

The single-family homes in Wedgewood are bordered by straight sidewalks and clean streets. 

David Alvear is President of the southeast Baton Rouge neighborhood’s crime prevention district. Residents here voted to set it up five years ago.

As we mosey down the sidewalk in front of Wedgewood elementary school, he said the decision was prompted by the extra-curricular activities of some people driving through to avoid nearby road construction.

"Burglaries and, you know, a few home invasions and break-ins. A lot of break-ins," said Alvear "And so therefore, we were all concerned about that."

The $25,000 the crime prevention district collects each year from $50 parcel fees pays for off-duty Baton Rouge policemen to patrol the neighborhood.

Wedgewood Civic Association President Scott Wilfong said that’s better than private security.

"Just a couple of months ago, one of our officers pulled over a gentleman for running a stop sign. But because he was a police officer he could run that person’s background and found out he had outstanding warrants. He arrested him, took him in. Got a criminal off the streets," said Wilfong.

The Baton Rouge Police Department doesn’t take a stance on whether security districts help or hinder law enforcement. But, property crime has actually risen in and around Wedgewood since the district was set up. Meanwhile, property crime in the city overall has remained steady, according to BRPD statistics.  

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office, on the other hand, says the security districts are a great way for communities to step up and take a role in crime prevention.

The sheriff’s office says the Old Hermitage subdivision recently went so far as to install cameras in their neighborhood. Once operational, the subdivision plans on giving the sheriff’s office access to the video.

Residents of Mayfair Park, Mayfair Park East and Mayfair Heights will vote Saturday on a combined security district. But it’s not just single-family home subdivisions considering whether to take crime prevention into their own hands.The mixed-use Baton Rouge neighborhood of Melrose East will also vote for a crime prevention district.

Scott Wilfong back at Wedgewood said the neighborhoods forming security districts are playing catch-up.

"Some of the ones forming now are in what I would say, 'crime emergency situations', they’re forming in response to that," said Wilfong. "That’s not saying they’re bad for doing it, they’re going down the right road."

If Mayfair and Melrose residents vote in favor of a crime prevention district this weekend, the number of security districts in Baton Rouge will bump to 17.