Chief vs Council: Debate heats up over Louisville's crime rate

Chief vs Council: Debate heats up over Louisville's crime rate
David James is among the Metro Council members questioning LMPD Chief Steve Conrad's claims about drops in crime.
David James is among the Metro Council members questioning LMPD Chief Steve Conrad's claims about drops in crime.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - "Everyone here is hearing things are down, you should good, you should feel warm and fuzzy," Louisville Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson said during a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday.

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The meeting was filled with some sarcasm and disbelief over whether the crime in Louisville is up or down.

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad's answer to that question raised eyebrows and many questions in front of skeptical Metro Council members.

Monday was the day for Conrad to say whether his re-organization of the department worked. The changes, which began in November 2015, included cutting flex platoons, increasing the number of narcotics detectives and establishing a full-time SWAT team.

"With the exception of homicides, I am absolutely certain it's working," Conrad testified.

The chief pointed to overall crime, saying it's down by nearly 3 percent compared to this time last year.

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But, some didn't buy it. Councilman David James is one of them, as is councilwoman Cheri Hamilton.

"It's not down in my neighborhood," she said.

"I disagree with the conclusion that crime rates are down," Councilman Brent Ackerson told Conrad.

Those conclusions can depend on the division. In most, but not all cases, non-violent crime is down, according to LMPD's latest internal Comp Stat reports and LMPD's Uniform Crime Reporting Comparison Report, which is submitted to the FBI.

But when it comes to murders and shootings, it's an indisputably different story. There have been 46 homicides so far this year, compared to 35 at this time last year. And that's the measure some said the re-organization should be judged on.

"The re-organization arguably could be affecting these numbers here," Ackerson said.

Councilwoman Hamilton represents some of the most violent parts of town. She wants LMPD's Flex Units, plainclothes detectives who deal with daily crimes, back on patrol.

"I still think we need to tweak this re-organization because I think we've taken officers off the streets," she said.

"There have been search warrants executed and arrests made but I still don't think that the reorganization is working the way that we had hoped that it would work," James told us.

The Chief says to judge only on the number of murders is wrong.

"I disagree," Conrad told us. "I think success in the community is a safer community and that's the direction we're going."

The re-organization started Nov. 1. On Monday, the chief did not have any statistics beginning on that date. But WAVE 3 News took a look, and found that since Nov. 1 of last year through Monday, there have been 70 homicides. In the same time period for the year before the re-organization, there had been 51.

WAVE 3 News learned on Monday that Conrad had asked for 50 additional officers above the rate of attrition; Mayor Greg Fischer gave him 16 in next year's budget proposal. Conrad said he is happy with the 16.

Meanwhile, Fischer's spokesperson issued the following statement:

"Putting together the city budget is a balancing act -- with many needs from public safety to affordable housing to economic development. The Mayor dedicated 80 percent of all new revenue projected for the next fiscal year to public safety, with the vast majority ($17 million) of it to LMPD to hire more officers and civilians. No city department director gets everything they ask for and the Mayor must consider the needs in context of the entire city budget."

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