Louisville violence was already on the rise. COVID-19 made it worse
Louisville remains in the red zone for COVID-19. The current number places the daily incidence rate at 68.4 per 100,000 people.
Despite a slight slow down in cases, other effects of the pandemic continue. The city’s Office for Safe and Healthy neighborhoods is focusing on the violence in local communities that the pandemic has exacerbated.
“We know gun violence isn’t random. Both guns and violence spread like infectious diseases through the real world and online,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, the Chief Health Strategist for the city, at a press conference Tuesday.
She continued to say that things like depression, anxiety and isolation increase people’s chances of committing acts of violence against themselves and others.
The numbers of overdoses, suicides and homicides have all increased. Youth have been most sharply affected by these increases.
According to Moyer, in 2019, 17 people under the age of 18 died due to homicide. As of October 1 of this year, that number had reached 31. Moyer did not include numbers for 2020. Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson Aaron Ellis reported, via email, that there were 18 fatal shootings of people 18 or younger in 2020.
“We see a lot of correlations between when the pandemic started, the things the pandemic interrupted which also then impacted the way we are experiencing violence in the community,” said Monique Williams, the director of the Office of Safe and Health neighborhoods.
Williams said the shutdown of schools and other community spaces was also a contributing factor to increased violence.
Now, she and her office are working to use the same strategies as health offices used to slow the pandemic, such as contact tracing, to curb violence and promote COVID-19 safety.
“Using that same type of strategies with community violence interventionists who could then help individuals deal with their safety issues, but also encourage vaccinations and other healthy behaviors,” said Williams.
Violence interventionists step in after a violent event has occurred to prevent more violence from happening in response.
Interventionists were sent out following the school bus stop shooting that left two students injured and 16-year-old Tyree Smith dead to stop retaliatory shootings from taking place.
Williams also highlighted that the same communities that have experienced the most negative effects of the pandemic are now experiencing the worst of the uptick in violence.
The problems these communities are experiencing now can be traced back to decades of racism and discrimination.
“We’ve had generations of systemic racial discrimination and inequities in healthcare, housing, education, employment and many other factors which have exacerbated the risk of gun violence,” said Williams, “This has made certain communities more susceptible to the devastations of COVID-19.”