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Fischer: Stolen guns, gang activity, low officer pay to blame for Louisville’s spiking violence

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:47 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:51 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Metro Council members hosted a discussion with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer about public safety concerns in the city as a during a special Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday.

The Metro Council Majority and Minority Caucuses both called off their meetings to give the mayor time to address public safety concerns.

“The level of violence — gun violence — in our city is not acceptable,” Fischer said. “The proliferation of weapons on our streets is worse than it ever has been, particularly illegal weapons.”

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The mayor said rising crime, particularly gang activity and youth violence, has much to do with law enforcement staffing shortages in Louisville and across the country.

“(The nationwide staffing issue) is not an excuse,” Fischer said. “These are our problems here.”

Overall, the Louisville Metro Police Department is about 300 officers short, according to Fischer, who claims that the force is fully staffed at 1,300 sworn and civilian officers. He added that the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections is also about 20% understaffed, despite the fact that statewide, jail staffing is down about 50%.

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“This is, again, a state problem, a national problem,” Fischer said. “But we’re not competitively paying people.”

The mayor asked the Metro Council to help pass legislation that would raise the pay of LMPD and LMDC officers and staff, which would help with recruitment and retention.

Fischer said he believes that if the community had more trust in the police department, much of the city’s violence could be avoided.

“We have to work on building trust between police and our community,” he said. “We need that trust so we can get information from our citizens to get those guns off the street.”

According to the mayor, the LMPD and Chief Erika Shields are concentrating their efforts on gang activity in the city, which he claims is increasingly affecting and involving teenagers.

“The gang activity that is going on in our city is likely at an all-time high, and that’s over drugs, over money,” Fischer said. “Everybody deserves to be able to sit on their front porch and feel safe.”

Fischer also advised gun owners to be cautious with their firearms and keep them locked away, noting that many shootings are carried out with stolen guns. He also requested that the Metro Council work on local legislation to change gun laws that would allow for officers to confiscate and destroy guns used in violent crimes, as well as lobby state legislators to do the same.

“Look, these challenges we have, especially as it relates to public safety, come from decades and decades of issues and generations in some case,” the mayor said. “So, our responsibility right now is to make sure we have a plan, that it’s funded, which the council has done, and that we’re all working to make it better and that the community is involved also.”

Several councilmembers took the opportunity to question or make suggestions to Fischer, including Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson (D-District 26), who suggested to the mayor raising taxes to better fund public services and pay officers.

Councilwoman Marilyn Parker (R-District 18) questioned the leniency of Louisville’s juvenile justice system and suggested that social programs for children, like Fischer’s SummerWorks program, have no impact on gang activity.

“We’ve had lots of social programs, we’ve bee funding them for years, and they don’t seem to move the needle,” Parker said. “Again, with all due respect, gang members don’t give a patootie about SummerWorks programs. They don’t even know what it is.”

Parker also suggested that LMPD resume routine traffic stops.

Following her speech, Councilman Jecorey Arthur (D-District 4) slammed Parker’s claim that programs like SummerWorks, which helps Louisville teens find jobs during the summer, have no effect on crime rates. Arthur said that if he had not taken part in them, his life would have turned out drastically different for the worse.

“If there weren’t social programs in the city of Louisville, I would probably be dead or in jail,” Arthur said. “So, I want us to be very careful criticizing social programs as we talk about public safety today.”

The council Fischer agreed to meet again to continue the discussion on public safety.

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