By Dina Kaplan
(LOUISVILLE, November 10th, 2004, 7:30 p.m.) -- With seven families now mourning seven murders since last week, WAVE 3 is trying to find out whether gangs are responsible for some or all of the violence. On Wednesday police, along with a pastor and several residents of high crime areas acknowledged there are gangs in Louisville. But as WAVE 3's Dina Kaplan reports, they are different from gangs in cities like New York or Los Angeles.
So far there have been 60 murders in Louisville this year -- already higher than last year's total.
At the funeral for a 16-year-old Key'Vonne Mochelle Edison, who was gunned down in the west end in early November, there were lots of tears, and occasional silence when speakers couldn't speak. But the color red was everywhere: on T-shirts, sweatshirts, even hair. But Key'Vonne's friends and family say it was her favorite color.
"I've known her to wear red, so we all decided to wear red," said her friend, Andrea Gunn
But it matches a memorial for a murder victim earlier this year, and police acknowledge it is associated with a local gang called the "Bloods."
"You do have people, groups of people, that identify with a particular color that may be a gang color," admits Det. Juan Garrett with LMPD's Criminal Intelligence Unit.
After seven homicides in less than a week, we spoke with Sgt. Garrett, an undercover detective who investigates gangs, who couldn't show his face on camera. Garrett did confirm that there are gangs in the city. To the simple question of are there gangs in Louisville, he "would say yes."
But police say Louisville's gangs are not organized like those depicted on TV shows. "That would be more the definition that we would use in Louisville, is neighborhood groups," said Sgt. Denny Butler.
Officers say that young people involved in criminal activity are often wearing a color associated with their neighborhood.
"They claim ownership of the neighborhood," Sgt. Denny Butler says. "For instance, a lot of times we'll see tattoos with Clarksdale, Park Hill."
Gary Biggers, a former gang member himself who was recently released from prison, lives in Beecher Terrace, where violent crimes have occurred in the past. He says gangs are less of a problem than the desperation that causes them. "What makes people really snap these days is the money -- there's just not enough money."
Pastor Russell Awkard, who spoke at the funerals of two teenagers this week, agrees with Biggers. "There's a gang problem, there's a crime problem. But those problems come as a result of dysfunction."
On Tuesday a local group said it hoped to arrange a meeting between gang leaders and Police Chief Robert White. Today a police spokesman said Chief White has no plans to meet with gang members until after next week.
Meanwhile Antonio Bradley was indicted for murder. He is accused of gunning down 17-year-old Johnathan Watson last Wednesday.
Online Reporter: Dina Kaplan