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Law-enforcement experts fear violent summer could be afoot

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The pandemic has put many aspects of life on pause, but it hasn’t stopped gun violence.

Louisville’s homicide rate so far in 2021 is on pace to set a record this year. And now that COVID restrictions are lifting, and summer months are approaching, the concern is that the violence will continue. Some law-enforcement experts say the trend will continue, and that has people, like grieving mother Lakesia Jeffery, worried.

“John was doing music, he was an up-and-coming rapper,” said Jeffery, whose son, 26-year-old John Johnson, was shot dead outside a food mart on Gagel Avenue. “My soul, my heart, my world, all of that is gone.”

It’s been gone since last December, when Johnson and another man were shot and killed

“There are no words in the dictionary to describe to you that feeling, or what we feel every day without him,” Jeffery said.

Johnson was a father of three. Jeffery said that during the pandemic, she was mainly worried about her kids getting the virus. Now, the word “pandemic” has taken on a different meaning.

”We are in a pandemic, not only with COVID, but with these brutal murders happening in this city,” she said.

The fear some have is that the violence could get worse.

”A lot of people are discussing that,” said Mike Bassi, from UofL’s Southern Police Institute. “Crime always tends to go up during the summer. The days are longer, the weather is better and (people) are out and gathering,”

Experts like Dr. Alex del Carmen, who specializes in racial profiling in law enforcement, believe the lifting of COVID restrictions, and the anger that’s been building from last year’s civil reckoning, are creating a perfect storm for violence.

”Some people have lost their jobs, the fact that some people have lost their loved ones, and there is just a general feeling of anger out in the streets,” said Dr. del Carmen, who teaches at from Tarleton State University in Fort Worth, Texas. “We anticipate the crime rate is going to go way up.”

Gun purchases and gun thefts also have risen during the pandemic. To make matters worse, there are widespread police shortages across the country. But, Bassi said he’s being cautiously optimistic.

”Perhaps reduction of the COVID restrictions will allow some of these social programs to get back in and calm some of this violence down,” Bassi said.

Del Carmen said that will take a while.

As for Jeffery’s story, police are still looking for her son’s killer. She said she worries about what’s to come.

”Now that we’re creeping back up and almost coming back to normal, I can only be afraid for my grandkids and my son that I have left here,” Jeffery said.

LMPD shared a statement with WAVE 3 News regarding any plans it has to address a possible increase in gun violence.

“The LMPD will be proactive by using intelligence-led policing as Chief Shields has talked about since her arrival. We will do this by identifying those individuals who are driving crime and identifying their network of associates as well. Also when you focus on illegal guns, you are going to get the individuals who are committing violence and you’re going to get the individuals who are pushing the drug trade through the city; they go hand in hand.”

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