Louisville Metro Councilman David James, D-6, joined police officers on a safety walk in the Victory Park area to alert residents about increased enforcement this summer, but neighborhood leaders worry the heavier presence will result in harassment and profiling.
Metro Police knocked on doors throughout the California neighborhood on Tuesday passing out fliers about cracking down on gambling, firearms and alcohol consumption in the park. The officers will also put a particular focus on drug sales in Victory Park, which has synonymous with a well-known street gang over the years.
Since the late 1990s, members of a group dubbed the Victory Park Crips have been involved in several high-profiled shootings and homicides in the city (here, here, and here) and are known to operate in and around the area.
James says residents are committed to taking back the park from gang members, however.
“Families that live in this area want to be able to be in the park without bad things going on in the park,” he says. “They want to be in the park without people drinking in the park; they want to be in the park without people shooting dice in the park; and they want to be in the park without people selling drugs in the park. They want to be able to live in their neighborhood and in safe environment just like everybody else in this community.”
James admitted the Victory Parks Crips are still active in the area, but adds officers are committed to getting them out.
The councilman’s office is spending $11,000 in neighborhood discretionary funds to help fund police overtime for the additional officers.
But one neighborhood leader is worried how law-abiding residents will be treated as a result of the increased enforcement efforts.
“The impression a whole lot of us have is the police department has us categorized. And if you live in this neighborhood you’re automatically a criminal,” says Michael Ballard, president of the California Federation Block Club.
“There are professional in this neighborhood—athletes, doctors, lawyers, people with trades, good parents and single parents. There are a lot of people who have challenges too, but to take the approach that the whole neighborhood are criminals you’re not in tune with what’s really going on.”
Ballard argues that James’s office is ignoring his groups activities to improve the area, and hasn’t adequately supported events such as Victory Park Day since taking office. James tells WFPL his office has put approximately $4,500 in the event last year for staging and permit fees, however.
During the three-month program, officers are being required to get out of their police cars and patrol the neighborhood on foot, ATVs and bicycle.
LMPD Major Bill Kristofeck, who runs the 2nd Division, says that’s an important step to improving police relations with residents and make officers more accessible.
“We need to get out of that police car and we need to make contact with the citizens, the community and the residents,” he says. “They need to know us and we need to know them. You’re not going to see officers riding around in police cars that are working this detail.”