Fischer: Louisville 'making progress' in crime fight despite near-record murders
Mayor Greg Fischer's remarks came during a year-end interview with WDRB News on Thursday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Mayor Greg Fischer said Louisville is “making progress” in its campaign against violence even as the city eclipses 100 murders for the second straight year.
Fischer attributed a year-to-date drop in nearly all violent crime to the Louisville Metro Police Department’s role in a federal task force targeting dangerous criminals, an increase in police overtime and other community efforts that make up a six-part crime plan he unveiled in July.
“We’re seeing progress in all of those areas,” Fischer told WDRB News during a year-in-review interview. “So what I know is if you continue to work a plan and you’ve got that type of partnership, results should happen.”
LMPD data through mid-December show an increase in two categories of assault, but violent crime otherwise is down when compared with the same period a year ago. Fischer said he’s pleased with that progress.
Even so, those declines aren’t occurring in all parts of the city. Personnel robberies, for instance, are up more than 20 percent in the LMPD patrol areas east of Interstate 65 and south of the Watterson Expressway; and in Fern Creek, Highview and Okolona.
And violent offenses have increased in LMPD’s 2nd Division in western Louisville and in eastern Jefferson County’s 8th Division.
With just weeks left in the year, there had been 106 murders in Louisville investigated by LMPD. That was down from 113 through the same period last year, which ended with 117 murders handled by LMPD and 122 in Jefferson County overall.
In all, 2016 and 2017 are the only two years in Louisville history with more than 100 homicides each year. By comparison, the murder rate has more than doubled since 2013.
The city gave police $1.2 million in extra overtime funds last December, allowing the department to fight violent crime by boosting patrols. Crime actually increased during the first months of the year, according to police data, and Chief Steve Conrad acknowledged that the overtime surge was not “completely effective.”
WDRB also documented cases in which some officers worked weeks or months without taking days off – stints experts said could endanger officers or lead to poor work.
Fischer defended the increased overtime on Thursday while conceding that there has been “second guessing” about the money.
“The important issue is that we know through data both who our most violent criminals are and where crime is taking place,” he said. “So when we have intelligence and we need to flood those areas with resources -- we will do that.”
Fischer said it’s important to view the overtime in context.
“Anybody that’s run a business knows that sometimes you’re going to have overtime, but you want to follow and track your total overall number and make sure that’s ok,” he said.
The mayor also took issue with the local media’s coverage of crime, saying he would like to see more stories about anti-crime efforts.
“What I would challenge the media to do is take a look at the coverage that you guys put on crime in our city, compared to other cities,” Fischer said. “Violent crime in particular is significantly higher in other cities. It’s not acceptable in our city in any event. I get that. And at the root of violent crime is guns, drugs and gangs. And so when you try to disrupt that crime, you identify who those folks are and then you try to remove those folks from the street.”
Fischer said the city is “fully cooperating” with an FBI probe into accusations of sexual abuse and an alleged cover-up in the police department’s Explorer youth mentoring program.
The mayor also ordered an investigation into the Explorer claims headed by former U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey. That probe is ongoing, Fischer said.
“What people should know is whoever was involved will be held accountable. I don’t care what position they’re in. The chips will fall where they may,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fischer said a separate probe of city agencies that supervise young people should be complete during the first half of 2018.
In a year-end report, the Fischer administration cites $12 billion in investment that has been announced, finished or in progress, including more than $90 million on Churchill Downs projects, the $200 million Butchertown soccer stadium project and $900 million at Ford Motor Co.’s Kentucky Truck Plant.
“There’s no question our city is going through a renaissance unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Fischer said. He also noted looming developments in western Louisville, including new headquarters for Passport Health and a YMCA near 18th Street and Broadway.
He hailed the refinancing of the debt on the KFC Yum! Center that was completed earlier this month. Fischer, along with Gov. Matt Bevin, appoints the arena’s governing body, the Louisville Arena Authority.
By refunding the arena bonds and replacing them, arena officials locked in more affordable annual payments. Without the change, the arena board faced the possibility of defaulting on its debt obligation.
“We’ve got a good plan right now to make sure that’s in a good, stable condition,” Fischer said.
In the past, Fischer has convened meetings to discuss Louisville’s prospects for a National Basketball Association franchise. The NBA has no current plans to expand, the mayor said, but if it does the city would “be at the table” for any discussions.
“We stay in touch with the NBA but there’s no activity going on right now,” he said.
During his year-end news conference last week, Bevin singled out Louisville’s murder rate and said the “prayer walks” he encouraged in crime-ridden neighborhoods have been effective.
But Fischer objected to the governor’s remarks about LMPD leadership, saying it was “sad and surprising that a governor would criticize the hard-working men and women of our Louisville Metro Police Department…”
The mayor said Thursday that his relationship with Bevin is “fine.”
“We want to make sure that Frankfort doesn’t want to micromanage our city,” he said. “We’re growing and expect to continue to grow.”