(picture is from interstate-guide.com)
I lived on 34th Street, in the Shawnee Neighborhood of the West End, from about 1980 to August 2004; I was one or 2 when my parents moved from Shively (at the time, technically a separately city in the same county as Louisville). I then moved back to the West End – this time, in the Portland neighborhood – in May 2013. I currently still live in Portland.
The West End is once again in the Louisville news, and again it’s due to violence, specifically “Murder Via Gunfire”. Day after day, for nearly 2 years, stories about the gun violence in the West End have made local printed, radio, and broadcast TV news. I do not have official figures or statistics but I can safely say that “Too @**#*@@ Many” sums up the number of deaths down here since 2014.
One city leader, Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green (Democrat-1st. District) proposed a 5-Point Plan (link at the top of the page) to combat the wave of violence, revealed to the public on April 15th, after meeting with Parkland and Chickasaw neighborhood residents. Let’s take a look at the 5 key points, summarized:
- Personable Accountability
- Increased Police Presence
- Community Involvement
- Extending Community Center Hours for the Summer
1. Personable Accountability. Councilwoman Green, in her plan, is “encouraging parents to take a more active part of their children’s lives” and to know who their child’s or children’s friends are, including “who they are talking to; where they are going.” Parents (or adult authority figure: aunt, uncle, older cousin, grandparent, etc.) should definitely have tabs on where their kids are, even if you allow them the freedom to come and go at late hours (which isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do, these days).
2. Increased Police Presence. Councilwoman Green is proposing mounted police in the West End neighborhoods, specifically Parkland and Chickasaw, as well as bike patrols and more overtime money. I would start with adding more police, period. Begin a recruitment campaign to boost the number of officers in the Louisville Police Force. Regarding bike and mounted patrols: increased numbers *may* help; they certainly wouldn’t hurt. Bikes and mounted patrols can access areas such as alleys much easier than patrol cars. However, there should be an added component to this section of her plan: have the police actually engage and interact with the people in these neighborhoods. It could be something as simple as officers meeting and greeting folks on the streets or in their yards. Let the people know that they are here to help.
3. “Crimestoppers”. Councilwoman Green wants people to “speak up and speak out” and to utilize “Crimestoppers”. Louisville has a tip line, called “Crimestoppers”, where people can get paid to provide tips and info – anonymously – that lead to the arrest of suspects. That might be the best tool for ‘speaking up and speaking out’; I can guarantee you that a lot of people in the area currently do not feel safe enough to do so, otherwise. That’s where #2 comes in: they can change that unsafe-feeling culture by having a more visual, approachable presence throughout the West End.
4. Community Involvement. Councilwoman Green proposes that churches and neighbors start walking the streets, adopting blocks, talking to people; she also proposes starting a Neighborhood Ambassador Program. This, in my opinion, is where the change in the current West End culture needs to start.
The Ambassador Program sounds pretty good, on paper. I would like to see and/or hear more details on how she wants this Program to run and what she wants the Ambassadors to do.
Local community activist Christopher 2X has been in the forefront of trying to turn things around in the West End.(and I admit, a few years ago, I had many doubts about him and his motives; I thought his arrivals at aftermaths of shootings and murders were ego-driven); Mayor Greg Fischer and Congressman John Yarmuth have been somewhat more visible in and around the West End than other politicians (looking at you, Mitch McConnell); those 3 need help. Some of the local Nation of Islam leaders have been “all bark, no bite” – let’s see some actions from you all, not called “trying to form a separate Derby parade because a West End Dance Team coalition sponsor can’t follow simple rules regarding membership limits”. Some of the more well-known churches in town – St. Stephens, West End Baptist, Canaan, for example – could act as anchors for this proposed neighborhood involvement. Get a handful of their members out to talk to people.
This step has so much potential… but only if the people, community activists, and church leaders get out and start to make the changes happen.
5. Extending Community Center Hours for the Summer. Councilwoman Green wants extended community center hours to “giv[ing] our Youth a place to go” and for “keeping kids engaged and active in something productive”. This is more important than it might initially sound. Some of the less-violent crime throughout Louisville (as a whole) could be traced back to bored teenagers: vandalism, fights, theft. I live pretty close to Portland’s community center; that place was busy before their recent remodel, now it’s packed on Friday’s and weekends. With a park right beside it, it’s a great place for anyone to hangout, shoot hoops, get involved with activities inside the building (such as cooking classes, working out, reading programs, or watching movies), or just to meet new friends. Extending the hours of community centers means a potential shorter amount of time that kids will be off of the streets.
I don’t know if there’s just one reason for the West End’s recent violence spike: boredom? Frustration(s) with what life has thrown at some people? The ease of grabbing a gun and shooting versus “old-school using your fists”? I also don’t know if there’s one simple plan that can “fix” this spike. Councilwoman Jessica green’s 5-Point plan is at least a few steps in the right direction. How will the people of the West End respond – with action or apathy, resolution or resignation? That response, combined with the police’s response and the community leaders’ involvement, will determine the success of Councilwoman Green’s plan and the turnaround of the culture of the West End.