Community

Louisville broke records this year for homicides and non-fatal gunshot wounds.

There have been 171 murders in Louisville as of Dec. 30, according to data from Louisville Metro Police. That marks a 45% jump from the previous record set in 2016.

On Wednesday, local activist Christopher 2X held a press conference with other community leaders to reflect on 2020’s violence.

“If anybody would’ve told me back in September we’d get to 171, I kind of doubted that,” 2X said. “I knew we were on a trajectory that was way too high. I thought we might end this year at 140 homicides.”

Louisville had at least 10 homicides every month of 2020, most of which happened in the city’s west and south ends. Four months had more than 20 homicides.

Most of the victims were people under 30, which accounted for 95 of the deaths. Nearly 20 victims were under the age of 18.

This year’s death toll comes after Louisville’s deadliest decade on record, which also included a deadly five year period. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 456 murders, which tied 1970 through 1974 for the deadliest five-year period in the city’s history.

“Unfortunately, 2016 through 2020 has now eclipsed both of those significantly,” said Josh Crawford, executive director of the Pegasus Institute.

The last five years have had a combined 565 murders. Crawford said it’s important to acknowledge the concerning trend seen in recent years when analyzing 2020’s record numbers.

“It’s obviously the deadliest year we’ve ever had in the city by a large margin,” he said. “But I think it’s important to not think of 2020 as an anomaly. We have been building to this point for at least the last six years.”

2X is the executive director of Game Changers, a group that promotes childhood education and nonviolence. He said he’s concerned about the impact of this year’s violence on children.

He said he’s working with schools and city leaders to bring mental health services to young people who have been exposed to violence.

“These kids, the same way they can navigate a cell phone at two years old… equally they absorb what’s going on around them with all this violence,” 2x said. “You can start to see the tell-tale signs of some of the troubling issues behavioral wise with kids and early childhood development.”

Dr. Keith Miller, a trauma surgeon at University of Louisville, said someone has been killed in Louisville about every other day this year. But the number of homicides isn’t the only category that rose. The city also had more non-fatal shootings.

A total of 585 people have been wounded by guns this year, shattering the previous record – set in 2015 – by 16%.

“Every time you talk about fatalities or homicides, you have to multiply that number between three and five to understand how many people are actually injured by firearms during that time,” Miller said.

Those high numbers have made it difficult for health care workers at Louisville hospitals, Miller said. The emergence of COVID-19 has only complicated things.

In previous years, gunshot victims would have family members and community advocates by their sides in the hospital. But the pandemic has prompted new public health measures that prevent visitors.

“Now, our wards and ICUs are oftentimes places of loneliness,” Miller said. “We’ve acknowledged that and are trying to provide those entities from within the hospitals, but obviously these cannot replace our families and community partners.”

Miller said that about 15% of all gunshot victims in Louisville will be shot again with 10 years, and called that statistic a “heartbreaking, systemic failure.”

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.