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Louisville Leaders Look to Tie Efforts Together to Reduce Violence

The second phase of Louisville's initiative to reduce violence will look to bring together resources that engage young people, address mental illness and quell substance abuse, city officials announced Tuesday.

From 2009 to 2014, more than 1,400 people died from homicide, suicide or overdose, according to data provided by Louisville Metro.

The primary objective of the second phase of Louisville's Blueprint for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods is to reduce the number of violent deaths experienced by young adults and decrease the number of youth exposed to violence by 2017, according to information provided by Louisville Metro.

The initiative is being called "One Love Louisville, Be the One."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the initiative will take "years and years" to be successful.

"I believe we will see an overall reduction in violent crime across our city," he said, before adding there "will always be work to do."

The Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods has outlined 13 goals in the second phase of its action plan that center on reducing violent crime, said Anthony Smith, the office's director. Those goals range from reducing the number of youths using illegal substances to helping entry level job seekers find employment.

Smith said breaking the cycle of violence in Louisville is "all about paying attention"—meaning that residents and officials alike need to focus on populations that are often under-served, such as young residents seeking their first job, substance abusers and residents with mental illness.

Smith said the phase two plan will highlight the need for all residents to take responsibility for the push to reduce violent crime.

'It's Going To Take Time'

The violent crime rate spiked in 2014 when compared to the year before, according to data from LMPD.

But Fischer said he "hesitates" comparing year by year data regarding violent crime.

"What we want to see is long term reduction," he said.  "It's going to take time to get there."

And cities that take a stand against violence and introduce initiatives aimed at quelling violence are successful when they develop "comprehensive plans," said Rachel Davis, managing director of the Prevention Institute, a California-based organization working to improve community environments through violence prevention.

For example, Minneapolis program has led to a 40 percent decrease in juvenile crime since being launched in 2006, Davis said.

But she added it is "critical" for a city-led initiative to include "multiple sectors" of government—like public works, health and wellness, parks and recreation and education—to be successful.

"All of these groups coming together in a coordinated way makes a difference," she said.

Underlying factors drive violent crime, she said, such as a lack of economic opportunities and mental health supports, poor schools and an availability of weapons.

In Louisville, Smith said the city's plan will look to address those very factors.

He said the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods is working with the city's public health department and the University of Louisville to find ways "to expand their reach in the community" and offer services that support mental health and substance abuse.

Smith said theZones of Hope program, which looks to combat violence in western Louisville neighborhoods, will focus on increasing educational and employment opportunities in those same neighborhoods—Newburg, Russell, Parkland, Shawnee and California.

"Employment is something we are looking at consistently," he said. "We've got to get people the skills for the jobs that are available."

The blueprint announced Tuesday will also lean on support from Metro Youth Advocates, Metro Community Centers and Metro Mentors, Smith said.

"Were trying to figure out what we can do in the community," he said. "We're going to put a lot of training out around suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention, violence prevention where people can start paying attention to young kids."


Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.