Undercover block watch reveals why crime is so high

Undercover block watch reveals why crime is so high
Updated: Jul. 19, 2018 at 9:34 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - He worked two jobs.

But when the meat cutter put on his Papa John's delivery shirt to deliver a pizza to his 5-year-old daughter at Park Hill, he got shot to death before he could get to the gun his family said he was carrying for protection.

He had just posted on Facebook: "If it ain't one thing it's another - devil try to slow me down."

If there is a devil – the Park Hill Housing Project is hell when it comes to crime in Louisville. When WAVE 3 News began its Taking Back The Streets project and mapped homicides, assaults, robberies and burglaries in the LMPD crime-tracker over the past six months, there were 55 in the block adjacent to 11th and Hill.

That was twice as many as the second-worst block in Louisville.

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So what do we do about it?

We cover peace walks and press conferences where people voice opinions on what's triggering the violence. While some recently printed shirts that spell out Put Down the Guns, I picked up a camera and embedded myself at 11th and Hill to try to see what's really going on.

Kind of a hidden-camera "block watch."

Every morning, starting before 9 a.m., 11th and Hill became a drive-through drug lane. People were waiting, cash in hand, and then directed to the dealers who often came out to cars and removed what appeared to be tightly-wrapped white rocks out of baggies. Baggies were everywhere, filled with what appeared to be marijuana or crack cocaine.

Every hour of every day I watched, I recorded young men counting their inventory and disbursing to dealers who fanned out and made hand-to-hand transactions.

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Some stored the stuff in kids' backpacks, made transactions and then fired up the profits. With so much money flowing, gambling came next. Dice games fired up daily at 10 a.m. Often there were multiple games at once, attracting men who dipped into thick stacks of cash they brought. Half a block away, some of the other people who live here were in line to get free food being handed out by Dare to Care.

"I am from the project, but I don't have the project mentality," Dr. Steven Kelsey said.

WAVE 3 News safety and security expert Dr. Steve Kelsey lived here as a kid. Then he became a Louisville police officer and patrolled this same neighborhood until he retired two years ago. I shared with him what I recorded.

"A lot of people here don't have hope," Kelsey said. "If you look at this, what do I have to be excited about here?"

When police drove by or pulled over and watched in marked vehicles, the dealing died. When they drove away, it came back to life.

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"If you look at that graffiti right there, the police didn't write that," Kelsey said. "The police did not do that. The police is not destroying its own community. We are destroying our community."

There appeared to be a lot of money here on a lot of young men who don't appear to have jobs.

"I'm not gonna go flip burgers," Kelsey said. "I'm not working for something like that when I can easily sell drugs here and make more in a day than you make in two weeks, and that's the mindset."

He said throwing money at the problem, or tearing down housing projects, won't help as much as re-installing values here.

"If I'm selling drugs, you've got to find the real reason why I am selling drugs," Kelsey said. "Remove the root cause, and you won't have the branches of me selling drugs. What keeps happening, we keep arresting folks based off the branches. They go to jail, go to diversion, where do they go back to? The same root cause."

Who is hurt in all of this besides the guy trying to deliver a pizza to his daughter? At 10:30 a.m. one day, long after school starts, I recorded a woman making a transaction. A boy who appeared to be her son was with her, dressed for school and wearing his backpack. Then she disappeared in the apartment of the most active drug dealer, leaving the boy on the steps outside, head in his hands.

When they finally left, as he complained he should've been in school by now, I heard her say "Mom had to take care of some business."

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