Fayette County

‘Do something.’ Lexington leaders target threats, risky behaviors that lead to violence

After the afternoon killings of two teens Saturday at a Lexington intersection, city leaders and organizations are pushing to prevent violent crime by targeting high-risk households with help.

Violence often starts with threats, Police Chief Lawrence Weathers said Monday. Neighbors and residents were encouraged to anonymously report to police threats or possible criminal activity uncovered on social media or heard and observed elsewhere.

The moves are part of a “Safety Net” initiative announced Monday. The city’s One Lexington, which assists community efforts to address violent crime, will team up with neighbors, police, the faith-based community, social services and other local partners..

“Those partners will take the next step to address gun violence by working directly with high-risk households,” Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said. “Police will take a simple message into the neighborhoods: risky, threatening behavior often leads to gun violence and even death. This is preventable and it has to stop.”

“Safety Net is our way of saying it’s time to get off our bottoms and actually do something that matters,” Weathers added.

Saturday’s daylight double homicide at the intersection of busy Winchester Road and Seventh Street marked the 19th and 20th homicides this year in Lexington. Three 18-year-old males were hit by gunfire, and Dwayne Slaughter and Darrian Webb died. Police were looking for a light-colored SUV.

Eight of this year’s homicides were of people younger than 25 years old.

After two double homicides last week, Lexington is on pace to have more homicides this year than last year, when 22 people were killed. The city record was set in 2017 — a year that had 28 homicides.

Mayor Linda Gorton said that while violent crime is down, shootings are up. As of Oct. 7, there have been 88 assaults with firearms reported in Lexington, according to police data. The victims in 24 of those cases were teenagers, police data shows.

Heather Matics, a prosecutor for the Fayette County Attorney’s Office, said that as a parent of teenagers, seeing young lives lost hits her at home. She said prosecutors, police, teachers, parents and members of the faith-based community must all work together and listen to members of the community.

“We will never be effective as public servants if we only want to meet the needs that we think people should have,” Matics added. “If we are truly going to serve the community, we have to be willing to listen and let people express to us what their needs are. We have to meet them where they are and we have to meet them where they allow us to be.”

Safety Net will complement Project Safe Neighborhoods, U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan said. A revived partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute the area’s most violent offenders in federal courts where there are tougher sentences.

Gorton said police and One Lexington have been working on the Safety Net initiative for several weeks and hope to implement it by the end of the year.

“This literally is walking to where the people are at their home to say, ‘We know what could be happening. We don’t want you to get hurt or anyone else to get hurt,” said Laura Hatfield, director of One Lexington. “But we also know you have barriers, and barriers that you maybe can’t remove on your own. That’s where the team comes in.”

Gorton added that every person in the community will be vital to the initiative. “We are all in this together,” she declared.

Her message was echoed by the police chief, who said sometimes people need face-to-face contact and to be turned in the right direction.

“We’re here to work with our community because the community should work for each other to make sure we all survive and have happy and healthy lives,” Weathers said.

To report threatening or risky behavior, neighbors have options. Anonymous tips, including photos and videos, can be submitted by texting LEXPD plus the tip to 274637. Information can also be sent anonymously through Bluegrass Crime Stoppers at 859-253-2020 or Bluegrasscrimestoppers.com.

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.
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