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Violent Crime Down, Homicides Up: What's Ahead For Louisville In 2018?

Blue light atop a law enforcement vehicle
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Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.

While recent trends — both in Louisville and across the country — indicate violent crime is decreasing, homicides are increasing. And one expert says that means that Louisville's law enforcement may have to change some of their methods of policing during the new year.

A new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found a decrease in violent crime for many cities, including Louisville, from 2016 through 2017.

And looking atLouisville Metro Police Department's 2016 annual report, Brennan Center attorney Ames Grawert said this trend might continue here in 2018.

That's because cities’ violent crime rates often ebb and flow, and he pointed to a similar trend for major cities between 2004 and 2006. But even so, Grawert said Louisville's homicides are concerning and could be the result of inequality, discrimination or policing.

“[Clashes between police and communities of color], I think, contribute to a general sense of instability that’s made worse by [these factors], and could be behind some increase in crime rates,” Grawert said. “It fits other cities in the groups we study. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something you can point to as well that fits with Louisville’s story.”

Louisville isn't alone among cities with rising homicide counts. The Police Foundation, a policing research institution in Washington D.C., found homicides and nonfatal shootings in major cities grew between 2014 and 2016, despite dropping crime rates.

“For people living in these neighborhoods, and those responsible for delivering public safety services in these neighborhoods, celebrations of low national crime rates do not reflect their reality,” the report read. “The new Administration and Congress must help local law enforcement in addressing violent crime spikes in order to prevent a return to the historically high crime rates of the past.”

While the Police Foundation's report suggests federal remedies to addressing policing issues, Grawert said there are more local solutions — like discussions on sentencing and bail system reform — that could be effective, too.

He said if police restore citizens’ faith in the system, judiciously using the jailing and bail systems, they can begin fixing communities. If they don’t, their relationships with communities could worsen. And that could increase crime rates.

“There’s not much evidence that just throwing more people in prison does an appreciable amount to decrease crime," Grawert said. "It’s a lot more nuanced than that.”

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.