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Does Crime Spike In Louisville During Oaks And Derby? Here's What The Data Show

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A 17-year-old has been charged as an adult for attempted murder after police say he fired shots at Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer's home in September.

They came from all over: Columbus; Kalamazoo; Kealakekua, Hawaii; and beyond.

They likely came for the racing, to watch the horses run around Louisville's famed Churchill Downs. But they found themselves boozed up and busted before the bugler made the call to post.

Arrests at Churchill Downs do happen during the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, but they account for just a slice of police activity during the first weekend of May, according to a review of Louisville Metro Police data.

In fact, racetrack arrests account for just about 7 percent of the some 1,700 arrests conducted by Louisville Metro Police on Oaks or Derby days since 2010, data show. The violators came from at least 30 different states and Great Britain, the data show.

Two young men from Kalamazoo, each arrested on Derby day in 2010, were taken in for the most common track violations: drunkenness and disorderly conduct, according to the data.

But the allegations don't stop there.

Nearly three dozen people have been booked for alleged ticket scalping, according to the data. Others have been arrested for drug violations, intimidation or, in the case of two 40-somethings from Chicago, identity theft.


Many of the arrests or citations issued by Louisville Metro Police on Oaks and Derby occur outside the track, according to the data.

Since 2010, police have issued some 3,700 such citations on Oaks or Derby days for a range of alleged violations, from simple assault to vagrancy, prostitution to weapons violations.

More than 500 violations were reported along the Broadway corridor, and more than 160 violations come from the Fourth Street corridor, police data show. The Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue corridor amounted for nearly 90 violations on Oaks and Derby between 2010 and 2016.

But such reports have waned in recent years.

This graph shows reports of arrests and citations issued by Metro Police peaked in 2011. Since then, the data show a general decline in arrests and citations being issued by Louisville Metro Police.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Louisville Metro Police data do not show statistics from other agencies that assist on Oaks and Derby.

During a press briefing earlier this week, Lt. Tim Burkett, security operations chief for Oaks and Derby, said the Kentucky State Police and other agencies, like St. Matthews Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, also provide law enforcement services at the track.

Burkett would not say how many officers are working Oaks and Derby this year. Last year, some 1,100 officers were stationed at or around Churchill Downs.

"I promise you," Burkett said. "We have plenty of officers."

The Transit Authority of River City will offer free bus rides on Oaks day.

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.

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