Last year was one of Louisville’s deadliest years in decades; at 107 homicides, 2017 was just short of 2016’s record of 117, according to Metro Police data.
The violence rattled the city, prompting questions on how to end it and leading to a call from Metro Council members last year that Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad step down. Conrad refused, and instead vowed to address the growing violence.
Last year, during an August news conference, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer defended the chief and refused to call on Conrad to resign.
“To point fingers, to act like there’s a simplistic solution to something as complicated as crime, is not a responsible step to take for the overall safety of the city,” Fischer said at the time.
At that same news conference, Fischer also pointed to data showing that violent crimes in Louisville had dropped, similar to other cities nationwide. And property crime, including burglary, larceny and stolen vehicles, was down 3.7 percent, Fischer said.
Even still, the number of homicides continued to climb.
Murders have increased in Louisville since 2013, and typically, the neighborhoods most affected are predominantly black and poor. For example, in east Louisville’s Cherokee Triangle neighborhood, there were four murders between 2003 and 2017. That’s compared to the Russell neighborhood, in West Louisville, which saw 117 murders in those same years.
A report by Louisville’s Public Health and Wellness analyzed data from 2011 to 2015 and found the rate at which black men are murdered here is 5.5 times above the city’s homicide rate. Guns accounted for nearly 80 percent of those deaths, according to the report.
During his end of year address, Chief Conrad expressed sorrow for the loss of lives. He asked Metro Council to lobby to enact local gun laws and help his department curb crime.
“While I’m glad that the crime numbers are lower, I am heartbroken that all of these numbers — and in particular the homicide numbers — are not significantly lower,” Conrad said in December. “I’m not looking to control who has a gun beyond what state law allows us to do, but I think there should be requirements on safe storage for guns.”
Violent crime survivors and families recently collaborated for a report from conservative think-tank the Pegasus Institute that highlighted issues with the city’s criminal justice system. Many said the system failed them, allowing their aggressors to escape or giving light punishments for crimes committed against them.
Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, who’s also running to be Louisville’s mayor, backs the report, and plans to present it to council members this January.