LaGrange Growing, But Hopes To Avoid Big-City Crime

By Craig Hoffman

(LOUISVILLE, July 8th, 2004, 8 p.m.) -- The small community of LaGrange continues to grow, but as the population increases, residents fear the crime rate could also climb. That's why city leaders, residents and police have put together a special team to prevent that from happening. WAVE 3's Craig Hoffman reports.

Tensions are mounting in LaGrange, and the Rev. Wayne Shemwell and others fear it may soon get out of hand. "We don't want to have marching and all of that after someone is dead."

They've seen the murders and ongoing shootings in nearby Louisville, and they've watched the marches against police.

That's why in LaGrange community leaders, citizens, and police have formed a Community Resource Team to head off trouble before it starts.

Shemwell says that "Once the police become to know the community and the community better, then that relationship develops into a better understanding of each person's role in the community."

Residents like Cheryl Elzy want more activities for teenagers and more police officers patrolling the streets. "We have a a lot of children, a lot of seniors in the neighborhood. I want to feel safe in my neighborhood. Right now ... I don't."

Nadiah Nu'man says she thinks the "community has become comfortable. It's small and now things are happening to us we're not used to."

About 6,000 people live in LaGrange, and it's growing every day. And so are complaints about attacks, drug dealing and other crimes.

LaGrange Police Chief Kevin Collett says the new team will tackle those issues. "We may not be solving the problem the way the community perceives the problem, so this is our way to get together with the community and for the community to come to us and give us their opinion, their advice on what they perceive to be the problem."

Community leaders realize they can't change people's minds and attitudes overnight. It will take time. But they say it's something that must be done.

"We all want the same things," says Rev. Shemwell. "A good community where our children can play safely, go to work and come home."

The Community Resource Team will take its message to local churches and neighborhood meetings. And on weekends members will also hit the streets to meet residents one-on-one.

Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman

Online Producer: Michael Dever