By Joseph Lyell —
A panel of researchers and activists discussed issues related to local crime and justice at a March 28 forum sponsored by the John Schnatter Center. More than 200 people filled the College of Business’s PNC Horn Auditorium for the event.
The panel consisted of community activist Christopher 2X, public policy researcher Josh Crawford and U of L professor of criminal justice Deborah Keeling. Schnatter Center Director Steve Gohmann moderated the forum.
Gohmann opened the discussion by noting nearly one percent of Kentucky’s population is incarcerated.
“Louisville has had really, a lot of violent crime recently. It’s murder rate was 11th-highest in the U.S. the year before last,” Gohmann said before prompting panelists to share their thoughts on violent crime in the city.
2X said every family in metro-Louisville has been affected in some way by violent crime. He mentioned several U of L students have been shot in Louisville.
U of L wide-receiver Trent Guy was shot in downtown Louisville nearly 10 years ago. Three students, including football players James Hearns and Henry Famurewa were injured in a 2016 shooting at The Retreat. Last year, U of L student Savannah Walker was killed in a shooting at the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery.
2X said these shootings, and others like them, are an unfortunate wake-up call for the community. He encouraged the audience to learn more about homicide victims and the survivors of gun violence.
Crawford said when discussing crime statistics, it’s important to remember each number has a story with real people behind it.
Crawford is co-executive director of the Pegasus Institute, which recently published a report outlining the effects of violent crime in Louisville.
He said Louisville’s crime tendencies resemble those of Cincinnati, which drastically reduced its crime rate after it peaked in 2006. Crawford said this reduction can be attributed to a “focused deterrence” policing strategy implemented by the Cincinnati Police Department, which allocated resources to the most violent and at-risk areas of the city.
“In the evaluation period thereafter, the city of Cincinnati saw a 41 percent reduction in gang and group-related homicides,” Crawford said. “So we know what works.”
He said strategically coordinating between neighborhoods and precincts is the best way to reduce Louisville’s violent crime rate.
“When you talk about violence and when you talk about criminal justice, your policing strategy is the single most important part of your strategy,” Crawford said.
He said a city’s police force is the most direct form of government in the average citizen’s life.
“The relationship between your most-affected neighborhoods and the police is tantamount to a successful policing strategy,” Crawford said.
Keeling said violent crimes are often the result of systemic inequities in society. She said police may be the gateway to suppressing crime, but they are not the only ones responsible.
“Police rely on citizens to help them solve crimes. So if the community is not partnering with the police in trying to come up with a solution to the crime problem, it’s never going to work,” Keeling said.
She said policies often have latent or unintended consequences, so she said they should be enacted with caution, and with the ability to adapt to societal and cultural changes.
“Police, courts, corrections,” she said. “Change just one and it dramatically affects the others.”
She said the empirical evidence and best practice can be seen in other cities’ policies.
“These are issues that are very valuable. It hurts us, you know? One homicide is too many,” she said.
Photo by Joseph Lyell / The Louisville Cardinal