Fayette County

Young people more likely to die from violence; panelists say solution may start with them

Tammy Fagley, left, president of the League of Women Voters of Lexington, spoke to an audience of approximately fifty people at a forum held at the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library on Thursday as part of a community conversation on crime and violence in Lexington.
Tammy Fagley, left, president of the League of Women Voters of Lexington, spoke to an audience of approximately fifty people at a forum held at the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library on Thursday as part of a community conversation on crime and violence in Lexington.

For people between ages 15 and 24, homicide was the second most frequent cause of death behind unintentional injuries in Fayette County between 2013 and 2016.

The numbers were presented to more than 50 concerned Lexington residents who gathered at the Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library Thursday to have a discussion on crime and violence in the community. The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters.

While “unintentional injury” deaths, which include traffic crashes, overdoses and falls, made up the highest number of deaths in Fayette County for people between 1 and 44 years old, homicides and suicides were the next most frequent causes for people between 15 and 24, according to data from the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center.

In the 15 to 24 age range, 26 people were killed in homicides and 15 died of suicides between 2013 and 2016, according to the data. For people between 25 and 34, 20 were killed in homicides and 28 died of suicides.

In other age ranges, homicide numbers were much lower between 2013 and 2016, according to the data. In the same time period, suicide was the cause of death for 89 people between 35 and 64 years old.

With 28 people killed, Lexington saw its highest number of homicides ever recorded in 2017. The number broke the record set in 1999 and tied in 2001.

After the research center’s Genia McKee broke down Fayette County injury death statistics, a panel answered questions from the audience of concerned citizens.

The panelists were public defense attorney Daniel Whitley, Carolyn Dupont with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and Bryna Reed with BUILD, or Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action.

While all three panelists touched on different ways to curb crime and violence in Lexington, all three agreed that working with young people in the community would be one place to start.

Whitley said investing in under-served children and neighborhoods will be the first step in rooting out crime before it starts. In his time as a public defender, he said he’s seen that childhood trauma and bullying are a “recipe for a lot of the destruction.”

Addressing a loaded gun that was found at Henry Clay High School earlier in the day, Reed told the audience that any gun brought into a school is scary, but that people should consider “what is happening in the neighborhood where this child lives that he feels he has to keep a gun on him to feel safe?”

The panelists also highlighted the importance of keeping legally owned guns secured and out of the hands of young people. Whitley warned against leaving guns in vehicles or out in the open inside homes, saying that if stolen, “that gun you lawfully own and protect very well is going to be used more likely than not in one of our local homicides.”

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