Rising murder rate ‘just like cancer’ in Louisville

Rising murder rate ‘just like cancer’ in Louisville
Christopher 2X (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Christopher 2X (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sgt. Phil Russell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sgt. Phil Russell (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Stories of murders and shootings have almost become routine in Louisville. In 2015, the Metro area had 84 murders and more than 350 shootings, an average of nearly one per day, tearing lives and communities apart.

The question often asked by grieving family and friends is "why."

Both police and community leaders have worked in their own way to solve the problem.

Christopher 2X got his name after coming out of prison and joining a mosque.

"You come into a process where your name becomes an X, it's like the unknown," 2X said. "It's like you're looking for a new identity and purpose and there was already a Christopher X in the mosque and I became Christopher 2X."

His newfound purpose was an activist, becoming most involved following the 2004 shooting death of Michael Newby. Newby was 19 years old when he was shot and killed by former Louisville Metro Police Department officer McKenzie Mattingly during an undercover drug deal.

He co-founded Hood2Hood, a group dedicated to stopping violence in west Louisville neighborhoods.

"It's just like cancer," 2X said. "We have no real cure for cancer, and we, unfortunately, won't have a real cure for reckless minds connected to reckless gunplay, but we've got to raise awareness around it and we can't just surrender."

He faces a large task. The national murder rate is around five deaths per every 100,000 people. In Louisville, it's more than double. In fact, in west Louisville neighborhoods like California, Russell and Shawnee, people are being murdered at up to 12 times the national average.

Police use crime mapping to dedicate resources and know how severe the violence is in West Louisville.

Sgt. Phil Russell has spent 22 years in law enforcement as a patrolman and detective. He now serves as the department's chief spokesperson.

"From a police standpoint, we certainly are frustrated as is anyone," Russell said. "We do this because we have the desire to seek justice for people who've been victimized."

Following its highest murder toll in nearly 40 years and a double-digit increase in shootings, the city merged its shooting and homicide detective units in 2015 to help share information and a large case load.

"You know and it does take an emotional toll on us," Russell said. "There's nothing like the wail of a mother who's lost their son, lost their child."

He calls it a public health problem, something Christopher 2X has repeatedly claimed.

"This is a plague like many viruses that have touched communities," 2X said.

The answer of why there has been such an increase cannot be narrowed down to one point.

"Someone may say, well the gang problem is out of control or the narcotics problem is out of control, or people don't have respect for the system and that's out of control," Russell said. "I think there's a lot of factors that we as a society need to look at."

Russell notes Louisville isn't alone in its increase in violent crime. According FBI crime reporting numbers, similar-sized cities saw a 12.5 percent increase in their murder rate last year. Louisville's went up 40 percent.

To help combat the problem, 2X recruits community leaders to talk to teens about not seeking revenge and not picking up guns.

"If they've been connected to pain, and most of them have, they might be willing to lend an ear to another way of taking care of business," 2X said.

The problem, though, is bigger than one group or just the city.

"It's going to take a lot of work from a lot of different people," 2X said.

"This needs to be a coming together of the police and the community," Russell said.

That's been somewhat difficult. While violence and bullet-riddled communities are frustrated, there's still a trust gap with police that both Russell and 2X acknowledge.

"If you really cared about the people you're close to and you really cared about your neighborhood, you would want to break those bonds of fear that those criminals have you under," Russell said.

Christopher 2X believes now, the community is at least starting to bend.

"They're tired of living in fear," 2X said. "They're tired of being a part of the pain, so they're willing to step up and be part of that process."

Copyright 2016 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.