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5 neighborhoods to pay for extra security

BATON ROUGE, La. — Residents in five East Baton Rouge Parish neighborhoods voted this month to tax themselves to pay for additional police protection.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported the Nov. 21 vote on the fee, which will cost property owners $50 to $150 each year for the next 10 years depending on their neighborhood.

The fees will go toward increased neighborhood security by hiring off-duty police officers, as well as other improvements.

Critics of crime districts say it amounts to double taxation because parish residents already pay a variety of taxes that fund law enforcement. They also say security is a basic necessity and not something that should be purchased by those best able to afford it.

“Some people may say it’s a double tax, but it’s levied on the people by themselves,” said State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who sponsored the Forest Heights Park crime prevention district. “The beauty is that they get to vote and decide if they are willing to pay to make sure their community feels safe.”

The Forest Heights Park Crime Prevention and Neighborhood Improvement District is asking for property owners to pay $120 per year for 10 years beginning in January. The fees are estimated to generate $22,000 in the first year.

The Southern Heights Neighborhood Crime Prevention and Improvement District says it would collect $50,000 in its first year by receiving $100 from each property. That amount will increase once after at least five years to an amount not to exceed $150 a year.

The other neighborhoods are Riverbend, $150 a year for 15 years; Woodlawn Estates, $150 a year for 10 years, and Shenandoah Estates, $50 a year for eight years.

The Advocate said neighborhoods contract independently with off-duty police officers. Some of them spend the money on surveillance cameras.