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Louisville mayoral candidates outline plans to tackle record-setting violence

Roxanne Scott

Candidates for Louisville mayor are rolling out their plans to tackle record-setting violent crime ahead of the primary election later this year.

On Thursday, Democratic candidate Craig Greenberg unveiled his plan for overhauling public safety. It focused on a handful of priority areas, including curbing violence and investing in communities. The plan was informed by a public safety roundtable discussion Greenberg held with law enforcement, policy makers and social service providers in November.

Greenberg said if he’s elected, he wants to fill nearly 300 vacant positions in the Louisville Metro Police Department. Pressed on how he’d do that, he said new officers “will know they have the support from the mayor.” He also highlighted raises in the new police union contract negotiated by Mayor Greg Fischer.

“We’ll also be looking to hire some retired LMPD officers or officers from regional forces, so that in a shorter period of time we can have a police force that is focused on community policing, that’s working with members of the clergy, neighborhood leaders,” he said.

Greenberg said he plans to expand on other existing programs like Louisville’s Group Violence Intervention initiative and the 911 deflection program, which promises to provide a non-police response to calls for a mental health crisis. 

The plan underscores the need for neighborhood investment to go alongside public safety reforms. Greenberg wants to expand workforce training programs and ensure streets are clean and well-lit. He said he would create an “abandoned vehicle response team” to remove wrecked cars from city streets within 48 hours of a report.

“The existing tow lot is overcrowded,” he said. “Owners need to come and retrieve their cars, or, if they don’t under the specified time, those cars need to be sold to make room for additional cars.”

The lack of space in Louisville’s tow lot has led to disabled vehicles piling up on city streets and in residential neighborhoods. One abandoned car off Eastern Parkway recently became a piece of ‘street art.’

Fischer’s administration has had funding for years to purchase land for a new tow lot, but has not acquired one. Greenberg did not provide a plan for creating a new lot, saying he is focused on freeing up capacity at the existing one.

Greenberg’s public safety plan also says he will aim to build 15,000 new affordable housing units in his first term, but it doesn’t include details on how he plans to do that or how affordable the housing will be. 

Some of Greenberg’s proposals are similar to those from other Democratic candidates. 

Both he and activist Shameka Parrish-Wright have said they want to expand community centers and programming to combat crime. 

In her C.H.A.N.G.E.S. plan, Parrish-Wright outlined her proposal to “reimagine public safety” by expanding the 911 deflection program, reopening the city’s adult crisis center known as the Living Room and creating “Neighborhood Trauma Response Units.”

“These units will employ representatives from each community that will go through extensive de-escalation and racial trauma training along with addiction and adverse childhood experience certification,” Parrish-Wright says in her plan. “They will be paired with social workers, legal, and mental health professionals.”

Reached for comment Wednesday, Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson said he highlighted public safety reforms as his top priority during his campaign kickoff last September. He said Greenberg’s plan includes many of the things he talked about then: creating an Office of Victim Services, the need for neighborhood-based policing and recruiting police officers from underrepresented neighborhoods.

“He’s just now catching up,” Nicholson said in a statement. “We believe our plan will heal the trust divide between residents and the police.” 

Activist and pastor Timothy Findley, Jr., a Democratic candidate, is proposing to focus on the root causes of violence by increasing job opportunities and access to health care. Findley also wants a more transparent police department. 

“[I’m] committed to standing up against aggressive policing practices, abuse, an absence of transparency, and cover-ups that have plagued this department and eroded public trust,” Findley says on his campaign page.

On the Republican side of the mayoral race, Bill Dieruf, currently the mayor of Jeffersontown, called public safety the “most critical challenge facing Louisville Metro.” In response to Greenberg releasing his plan Wednesday, Dieruf said he would bring Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders along with him if he’s elected mayor.

“Having a plan does not mean you can get it done,” Dieruf said in a statement. “I don’t just have a plan. I have successful experience implementing proven public safety measures.”

Dieruf highlighted a few of his proposals “without showing our hand to the criminals we will pursue.” Like some Democratic candidates, they include expanding Louisville’s Group Violence Intervention initiative and reopening the Living Room. He also said he would have police coordinate better with state and local law enforcement.

The Republican and Democratic primaries are expected to be held on May 17.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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