State

Louisville mayor emphasizes lower crime rates amid homicide spike, police chief no-confidence vote

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Lexington Herald-Leader 2011 file photo

Ahead of a no-confidence vote involving Louisville police Chief Steve Conrad this week and continued spikes in murders, Mayor Greg Fischer emphasized that the city's violent and property crime rates are down slightly this year.

With Conrad by his side, Fischer said that besides homicides — which are up by about 20 percent in 2017 — Louisville is "headed in the right direction for every category of crime."

Data provided by Louisville police show violent crime is down by 5 percent and property crime is down by about 4 percent compared to last year. Those statistics do not include crime reports by other law enforcement agencies such as Shively or Jeffersontown, however.

"When we look at all these crime numbers we have to keep in mind that opioids, especially as it relates to homicides, we feel like are at the root of a lot of these issues," Fischer said in a Tuesday news conference.

The city is on pace to eclipse the record-breaking 124 criminal homicides that Louisville police and other agencies handled last year. On Sunday, 31-year-old Brandon Madry was gunned down in the Parkland neighborhood, marking the 74th homicide in Louisville so far this year.

Several neighbors have compared the ongoing violence to living in a war zone.

"You can't go to the store, you're afraid to go outside," Parkland resident Dorthy Dulin said. "People are just getting to the place where they just don't care anymore."

In the Louisville police department's 2nd Division, which includes the Parkland area, homicides are up by about 30 percent while violent crime overall is down by about 6 percent and property crime down by about 5 percent.

City officials pointed out that in the 1st Division, which includes downtown Louisville and its adjacent neighborhoods, property crime has dropped by 11 percent and violent crime by about 4 percent. But those same police statistics show for the first half of the year that murders are up in that patrol division by 140 percent.

Conrad said shootings are also down by about 18 percent this year but that perpetrators are becoming more accurate.

"We've had fewer shootings overall but more of those shootings have led to fatalities with one in four people being shot dying," he said. "More shots being fired, more shots fired at the same victim. It's something that we've not seen before."

Fischer said there is still tremendous work for the city and public to do, and he has implored residents to get more involved with his administration's six-point crime plan and Office of Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods' "Be The One" campaign.

In a recent speech that touched on Muhammad Ali's legacy, the mayor tied the city's violence to a growing drug epidemic and other systemic issues such as poverty and institutional discrimination.

But Fischer and Conrad have come under criticism from a bipartisan group of Metro Council members, who are also pursuing a no-confidence vote in Conrad's leadership.

The measure, which the council's Public Safety Committee will discuss on Wednesday, calls on Fischer to seek Conrad's resignation and begin searching for a new chief.

"We all need to work together to make our city a safer place. 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.

Fischer refused to answer a question from a Courier-Journal reporter whether he has lobbied against the non-binding resolution.

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