Police, community better partners in fighting crime

Perhaps the most hopeful news from the press conference Tuesday about the work of Lexington's Violent Crimes Task Force these last few months is that people in the affected neighborhoods have begun to share information with the police.

Throughout the fall, as the community reacted to a string of shootings and city officials hustled to respond, a consistent theme has been the challenge law enforcement officials face in getting cooperation from people who might know something about the crimes.

"It appears that they don't want police involved, or they want to handle it themselves," police Commander Kelli Edwards said on Oct.12.

"It's hard as heck to tell on somebody knowing that you're going to see them in five minutes," Corey Dunn, a former volunteer for a gang-prevention program in Lexington and friend of one of the slain men, said later that same month.

By Tuesday, when Mayor Jim Gray and Police Chief Ronnie Bastin held a news conference to report the task force's impressive results — 20 fugitives tracked down, 50 arrests, two dozen firearms seized, 94 criminal and traffic citations — that uneasy relationship had begun to change.

"People did begin to come forward and we received much more information," Bastin said.

This is not surprising. Among the observations police shared Tuesday were that many of the crimes were drug related and most of the victims in the shootings had some sort of relationship with their attackers before the crime took place. Presumably, other people in the neighborhoods knew them, too.

When law-abiding citizens see criminals in their neighborhood much more often than they see police the self-preservation message is pretty clear.

So, the hard, comprehensive work of the task force was a great first step toward creating a new relationship between law enforcement officers and the affected communities.

The question is, where do we go from here? Or, which relationship will survive long term?

Both the city and the affected communities must build on this hopeful beginning to establish a relationship that could battle the poverty and hopelessness that provide fertile ground for drug abuse and the crime it gives rise to.

District 1 councilman Chris Ford, who represents several of the neighborhoods affected by the recent violence, saw the council's approval, also Tuesday, of plans to re-open the Charles Young Community Center as a commitment to a larger relationship between the city and the East End neighborhoods.

We agree, and we urge residents and leaders to advocate for these neighborhoods and nurture this new, hopeful relationship.