Bulldozers move crime a few feet to the left - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Bulldozers move crime a few feet to the left

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J. T. Duncan J. T. Duncan
Grover Potts Grover Potts
Vincent Robison Vincent Robison

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Taking a bite out of crime with a backhoe. It's a $157 million project, to erase the housing project. The Sheppard Square public housing project has long been regarded a magnet for crime. But what happens when they bulldoze a public housing complex? Where does the crime go? Neighbors say it just moved down Clay Street half a block. And they're right.

It's hard to miss. In between people passed out on the sidewalks, I videotaped big rolled up baggies of drugs hanging out of dealers' pockets. Dealers started their day by counting up the inventory, then disbursing it to other dealers who fan out at Clay and Broadway. They sit and sell what police say appears to be crack rocks to a steady stream of walk up customers, who often place them in their mouth in case cops come and they have to swallow the goods. I was recording it all from a child care parking lot across the street.

Sometimes it was fast and I could hardly see it. Sometimes it was obvious, with outstretched arms of patient customers. Sometimes it was awkward, with dealers nervously looking around and passing payments to and from the money men.

They advertised their double-fisted stockpiles to passersby. They used drugs while they sold them. There was a walk up window for customers willing to get out of their car, but the drive-thru was always open too. They sold to people on bikes and used bikes to patrol the perimeter for police. Business was so good, they were constantly counting cash. Money was everywhere, every couple of minutes, every day I recorded. When it got really hot, the thick stacks of revenue made a great fan.

Police officers drove by and even parked right in the middle of it, but the dealers just slid out of view.

"You've been down in that area, it's very hard to sit down and observe because the people there are always on the lookout for police," said Metro Narcotics Lt. J. T. Duncan.

I showed my video to LMPD Metro Narcotics. Their database shows 173 different busts on that block over the past year and a half, many for concealed handguns.

"With that much money or that much narcotics there's going to be people down there with weapons, and they're criminals, don't have the same value on human life as most people do," said Duncan.

The deals and guns were 30 yards from the front door of the Presbyterian Center's child care facility.

"I've never felt threatened nor have I ever seen a drug transaction go down," said Presbyterian Community Center board member Grover Potts.

His community center sits right between where the drug deals used to be and where they are now.

"We have always had a good relationship with the community and the community always respected us," said Potts.

So, does the changing face of public housing change anything when it comes to crime? A 19 year study on homicide and Louisville public housing concluded, "Low income public housing... provides an environment where homicides are likely to occur and this pattern remained in effect even when the nature of public housing changed."

"If you look at the aggregate of crime in Louisville, actually had years up and years down, unrelated to projects being torn down. So it's hard to say projects being torn down have caused anything. But yes I'm sure there is some temporary displacement," said LMPD Chief of Staff Col. Vincent Robison.

In the middle of my investigation, a 40-year-old man was stabbed to death right at Clay and Broadway. He had just been released from jail 10 days earlier for drug possession.

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