Community Metro Louisville

In a year of record homicides and shootings, the city of Louisville is about to begin a new program to try to reduce community violence, according to U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman.

So far this year, 137 people have been killed in homicides in Louisville, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department, surpassing 2016’s record of 116. Additionally, 493 have suffered a nonfatal shooting, another record.

“That is colostomy bags, and paralysis and wheelchairs,” Coleman told the Rotary Club of Louisville Thursday.

Coleman said his office, along with the city, will be partnering with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York on a new approach called Group Violence Intervention (GVI). It was developed by David Kennedy, who directs the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay. 

“We have over-enforced, well-intentionally over-enforced, but we’ve under-protected,” Coleman said of certain Louisville neighborhoods. “We have a lot of relationships to build in neighborhoods. And we’re going to come at this in a different way.” 

The program will target people believed to be at risk of engaging in violence, and offer them social services like counseling, addiction treatment or job training, Coleman said.

“You actually have to sit down with those that are pulling the trigger, because there’s a recognition the same trigger-pullers have also been traumatized,” he said.

Coleman referred to social services as the “carrot,” side of the program. But there would also be a “stick.” Coleman said law enforcement should “bring a hammer” down when violence is committed. 

“We recognize that we can’t arrest our way out of our challenge, and GVI is one way of our community saying, ‘enough is enough,'” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a press conference Friday.

Coleman said the program has had success in Boston. It has support from longtime anti-violence activist Christopher 2X, who told WFPL News he’s most optimistic about the program’s engagement with survivors of violence. The initiative would bring together youth determined to be at risk of violence with survivors who can explain the impacts violence has had on their lives.

“I like the whole idea of violent crime survivors being involved,” he said, “to let them [potential shooters]  know about the level of the weight of what they’re carrying in regards to the shooting and the losses.”

Coleman said the city undertook a version of GVI more than a decade ago, but said that it was “half-hearted” at the time.

“We really didn’t do it right,” he said.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.