LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- From gun violence to robberies, LMPD said there has been a shift in the First Division, which encompasses Waterfront Park and the Portland and Russell neighborhood.

All three areas have had problems with violent crime, but police say the trend is changing for the better.

Diane Harbin, who owns apartment buildings in the Russell neighborhood, said that doesn't come as much of a surprise.

"When I first bought the building, I didn't know I was going to have to deal with all of that," Harbin said. "And this particular corner was a hot spot for prostitutes."

Over the years, Harbin's dream of being an entrepreneur has included some nightmarish confrontations. But in addition to the new housing development down the street, things have changed.

"It is certainly a lot calmer," Harbin said. "I don't have people hanging out on my corner. I don't have people sitting on my steps drinking beer."

According to LMPD, violent crime is down 50 percent in the First Division in the last 16 months.

"The biggest reductions I've ever seen since I've been here in 20 years," said Maj. Eric Johnson, Commander of LMPD's First Division.

Of that, Johnson said the biggest improvement is in the Russell neighborhood.

"This is the safest it has ever been there," he said. "Homicides are down over 60 percent this year."

Johnson credits community-oriented policing for some of the success.

"I've never seen people more engaged than they are now," he said

Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith represents part of the First Division on Metro Council and believes a partnership between LMPD and federal authorities has helped reduce crime and attract homeowners to the west.

"Crime is going down dramatically, not for one reason, but for a lot of reasons," she said. "Ceder Street, right here between 19th and 20th, did not always look like this. If I didn't tell you where we were, you would assume that we were in eastern Jefferson County somewhere."

There has been an increase in property crimes with theft of items left inside cars, according to police and Sexton-Smith. So LMPD is reminding people not to leave valuables in your cars and lock the doors.

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