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Special Report | Louisville in Crisis

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the city of Louisville fights through a historically violent year, WDRB News spent a month examining where we are, how we got here and the pathway forward. The articles below comprise a series of special reports focused on the city’s crisis of violence, an in-depth look at the crime plaguing Kentucky’s largest city.

Below, you'll find brief snippets of each individual story, and click the link accompanying each story to read it in full and watch that part of the special.


Louisville families grapple with epidemic of 'unimaginable and unending' violence

By: Gilbert Corsey

A 16-year-old Eastern High School junior was shot and killed in a drive-by at the bus stop. Two teenage girls were shot and killed on the same street, just hours apart.

The stories continue throughout 2021, a year that has seen homicides become commonplace, even among the city’s youngest population.

"Every day, it's murders, murders, murders," said Eric Shirley, whose stepson was shot and killed in September. "It’s crazy. You are hurting whole families and you are destroying generations.”

FBI data shows Louisville homicides steadily climbing in the last 10 years. The city hovered around 50 murders a year in 2011 and is now on track to reach about 200 by the end of 2021, which would mark a 300% increase in the last decade.

In Part 1 of our series, Gilbert Corsey talks with the families of these victims, sharing their stories, their pain and how a bullet hits one person but shatters the lives of the people and community around them.

Murders, gangs, and guns in Louisville motivates group to try to stop the violence

By: Valerie Chinn

Louisville's most dangerous street right now is 22nd Street, according to Dr. Eddie Woods, with "No More Red Dots," a group focused on stopping gun violence.

The group gets its name from the red dots on a map marking each homicide and shooting in the most violent year in Louisville's history.

And Woods said gangs play a massive role in fueling that violence. There are 19 identified gangs in Louisville, he said, a lot of them neighborhood groups that are affiliated with each other.

"We have to count them all," he said. "We can't go by what's the nationally-known groups, Crips, Bloods, like that," Woods said. "We pretty much know them by neighborhoods. Really, that's not as much our focus as just stopping the homicides and the shootings."

In Part 2 of our series, Valerie Chinn accompanies Woods on a ride through some of Louisville's roughest neighborhoods in search of what it's like on those corners and how No More Red Dots is working to fix it.

Louisville juveniles often reoffend after being arrested, given diversion

By: Travis Ragsdale

Young people under 18 increasingly are involved in violent crime, with 21 people killed so far in 2021 and at least six arrested and charged with shooting another person to death. In all of 2020, 16 juveniles were killed.

“Something has to change, and something is not right,” said Jefferson District Court Judge Jessica Moore, who along with another district court judge oversees juvenile court proceedings that are shielded from the public. “They're fearless. It's a very toxic cocktail.”

In an effort to reshape Kentucky’s juvenile justice system, state lawmakers approved a sweeping bill in 2014 creating a system that allowed young people to be charged with multiple crimes before they could be incarcerated. 

Since the bill became law, diversions have increased more than 18% in Louisville, according to state data. It’s unclear how many people who were diverted have reoffended. In Part 3 of our series, Travis Ragsdale digs into the cycle of youth violence in Louisville and its ripple effects throughout the community.

City, community programs provide hope for a better tomorrow amid Louisville's rising violence

By: Chris Sutter

Big moves start with hope. You don't have to look further than the youngest member of the Gwynn family for that. With two family members shot — one killed — in the last year, the heartache has been immeasurable.

"These kids out here nowadays, they're not even making it to adulthood before they're taking a bullet or losing their life," Christa Gwynn said with tears in her eyes.

Youth is where problems with violence start in Louisville. Every day, victims and killers get younger, but it is far from the end of the problem. There are several outreach initiatives and programs — both from the city and among community activists, that aim to stop the violence and treat those left in its wake.

In Part 4 of our series, Chris Sutter looks at the programs trying to rebuild the community, the success they're having and the one big obstacle they still face.

EMS, UofL Hospital trauma staff work front lines of Louisville's 'escalating' violence

By: Fallon Glick

This year of violence has taken a toll on medical professionals who treat its victims. From first responders in ambulances to those in the trauma room at University of Louisville Hospital, they’ve seen firsthand the impact of the violence.

Working at Louisville Metro EMS is not an easy job.

“The violence is something that we've seen for many years," Maj. Chris Keene said. "It's been a little bit more increased and in the news in the last couple years."

In the final part of our "Louisville in Crisis" series, Fallon Glick takes a late-night ride with Louisville Metro EMS crews, seeing firsthand the battle they face during the city's most dangerous hours.

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