Baton Rouge has one of the top 10 highest murder rates nationally, according to statistics released by the FBI last week.

The FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report reported Baton Rouge had 67 murders in 2008. The numbers reported put Baton Rouge at No. 7 in the nation for murders per capita, with about 30 killings per 100,000 residents, according to numbers compiled by the FBI. This is down from 71 murders reported in Baton Rouge for 2007.

The FBI compiles the report from statistics reported by local city law enforcement. While the FBI reported 67 murders for Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Police Department reported only 66 for last year, according to Sergeant Don Kelly of BRPD.

Kelly wasn’t able to explain the discrepancy in the statistics, but said it could possibly be because of a pending court decision that was settled after BRPD reported their statistics.

The FBI statistics also showed that New Orleans had the highest murder rate nationally with about 64 murders per 100,000 residents.

University sociology professor Thomas Durant said the Capitol and Crescent cities share high frequency of poverty, drug problems, high school dropouts, and lack of family supervision in concentrated areas — factors that create a dangerous environment.

“Louisiana has a high incidence of poverty, and Baton Rouge is below average,” Durant said. “A lot of crimes tend to follow lower socioeconomic status. Murder is a crime of passion and emotion that usually aroused by environmental stimuli such as drugs, low income, lack of education, peer association ... There are more murders in New Orleans than Baton Rouge because we see a higher concentration of those factors.”

LSU Police Department spokesman Lawrence Rabalais said controlled or illegal substances are the most common factor in causing both violent and non-violent crime in Baton Rouge.

“Whether it’s someone who kills somebody else to steal property to sell and get a fix or someone who kills someone else to get the actual drugs itself, I think it all stems around substance abuse — whether it’s drugs or alcohol,” Rabalais said. “Drugs are always a factor.”

Durant described isolated pockets throughout Baton Rouge as being the places where most of the city’s crime is committed.

“LSU is bordered by a low to moderate income area. Some people call it South Baton Rouge, and some people call it the ‘bottom,’” Durant said. “You have pockets like this throughout Baton Rouge. If you would get the statistics for the last year, you will see that basically places like that is where most of the crime is occurring.”

Rabalais said the University is safer than statistics for the rest of Baton Rouge suggest because the demographics on campus are completely different than those in the surrounding areas.

“There is crime on campus, and we are not immune to it,” Rabalais said. “The University is a city within a city, but our environment within our city is more controlled where you have students who have to have a certain grade point average and are not in poverty.”

The rate of murders in a city may not be the most accurate way to assess how safe Baton Rouge is because typically people do not randomly murder other people unless it is an opportunistic murder arising out of robbery, Durant said.

Rabalais said the on-campus double homicide that occurred in December 2007 at Edward Gay Apartments is still under investigation.

Following the double homicide, the University created the Crime Interdiction Unit to identify people who do not belong on campus at suspicious hours as part of a proactive approach to preventing crime on campus, Rabalais said.

Durant said students who live off campus should be the most cautious, because crime is much more prevalent in concentrated areas around the city than on campus.

“Parents need to council their children, and the University should council students who live off-campus about where to live, how to protect themselves and what to be aware of,” Durant said.