Gang-related issues a problem on both sides of the river, DA Tony Clayton says
Both sides of the Mississippi River must work together to stop gang-related crimes in the Capitol Region, 18th Judicial District Tony Clayton said last week.
Gang-related issues with juveniles and young adults have become one of the biggest catalysts for crime not only in Baton Rouge, but throughout Iberville, West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes, Clayton told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club last week.
Clayton has worked with 19th Judicial District Attorney Hillar Moore and law enforcement in East Baton Rouge Parish, but he said they need to stand together to take down legislation that set back the efforts to stop gang violence in the region.
The “Raise the Age” law that took effect in 2019 has played a big role in the crime spike over the past several years, Clayton said.
Discussion and video of juvenile crimes in Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge played a major part in presentation.
A video from a Plaquemine gang showed the arsenal of weapons they brandish.
“We have kids on the street who are 12, 15, 16 years old – and they have more guns than my cops,” he said.
Adult drug dealers will often use teens to handle drug deals, Clayton said.
“If the main drug dealer wants out of the sale on fentanyl, he will use a 16-17-year-old, and he will only get three years in prison,” he said. “And they’ll give his parents $100,000
Many young gangs possess more weapons than law enforcement.
“Some have as many guns as Kellogg’s has cereal,” Clayton said.
The “Raise the Age” law limits confinement for 17-year-old criminals to juvenile detention facilities.
The limited space at the Louisiana facilities has forced law enforcement agencies to send them to out-of-state detention centers.
The costs to taxpayers – upwards of $600 per day in out-of-state facilities – leaves local law enforcement no other recourse than house arrest.
That recourse often becomes a useless step, Clayton said.
You put them an ankle bracelet on them, and they put foil on them so you can’t read them,” he said. “That allows them to get back on the streets.”
Authorities need to stop the gangs, Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Aubrey St. Angelo said.
Many youth crimes involve gang, which have become a culture in themselves.
“Today, we’re finding gang wars – gangs who arm themselves with high-powered rifles,” he said. “They wear the color of the street gang and slam their rivals.”
Clayton said some people have criticized his approach to youth crime.
“It’s not about throwing a sector of the community away,” he said. “We’re trying to help these kids.
“A lot of these kids look like me, so I’m not here to throw away any kids,” Clayton said. “I’m here to make sure they’re held accountable.”