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Last week’s riot at the Mall St. Matthews renewed the debate here in Louisville on a topic incumbent politicians dread: Crime. It seems elected officials and chamber-of-commerce types can never rise above their basic boosterism and babbitry long enough to admit that their good old hometown has become a dangerous place in which to live.
Is Louisville such a dangerous place? Depends upon who you talk to.
In a television interview today, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tried his best to downplay last Friday’s mall melee; even denying that a riot occurred. "It was sensationalized by the media, frankly," said Fischer. "Nobody was hurt. Nobody stole anything. There was no damage to the property. I regret that any incident happened, but for the media to blow it up like the world's coming to an end at the mall, I think is reflective of what we see in this 24-7 media cycle that we're in right now," Fischer told WDRB.
But, the police have confirmed property damage, and WDRB interviewed a woman whose 16-year-old son was injured in the incident. And, despite the mayor’s efforts to deflect the issue by blaming the messenger, local police held a press conference this morning, where they outlined an increasing number of violent incidents at Shelbyville Road shopping venues; including fights, gunshots, thefts, armed robbery, and teenagers throwing bricks at cars.
Our local leftist newspaper has made a valiant effort to dance around the issue. The first stories appearing in the Courier-Journal, written by a young white woman reporter on the neighborhoods beat, pretty much repeated the story told by the police. Sensing a liberal backlash, the paper’s editors re-assigned to story to a black male reporter, who tried to get a police spokesman to backtrack on original estimates that the crowd size at the riot was between 1000 and 2000 youths. The reporter was able to get the spokesman to admit that the reported crowd size was a “guess,” and the editors put the story on the front page, top right, above the fold.
Social media and television commentary sites are abuzz with quibbles over whether the affray at Mall St. Matthews was really a “riot” at all. “Not nearly as bad as Ferguson,” said one. “No buildings burned,” said another.
But, the police were legally accurate in referring to last Friday’s incident as a riot. Kentucky Revised Statute 525.010 (5) defines a “riot” as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five (5) or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.”
At least Mayor Fischer’s blindness toward Louisville’s crime problem does not extend to ignorance of the murder rate. Dead bodies are difficult to overlook.
In his year-end summary, released yesterday, the only mention of crime was a brief mention of the dramatic increase in homicides (82 homicides so far this year, compared to 55 last year): “Like too many American cities, we experienced an unacceptable number of homicides in 2015, and we must stem that tide.” Unfortunately, the mayor didn’t take the time to outline any particular steps his administration was prepared to take, to “stem that tide.”
"The community is starting to say, 'We own part of this, too.' We're not going to arrest our way out of homicides. It has to be a situation where everybody's involved to help prevent crime in the first place. But I think the overall message is crime overall is down," Fischer told WDRB this morning.
Mayor Fischer’s “overall message” may be of some comfort to his constituents, but it is a lie. While the national crime rate is decreasing, all types of crimes are on the increase in Louisville. And, before you get the idea into your head that unarmed nocturnal perambulations about our fair city might be agreeable, you need some additional information: The crime rate in America averages about 42 crimes per square mile, annually. In Kentucky, that rate is only 2 crimes per square mile; in Louisville, it’s 146. Louisville is a dangerous place in which to live.
According to cityrating.com, Louisville Metro crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data from 10 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Louisville Metro for 2015 is expected to be higher than in 2012.
The city violent crime rate for Louisville Metro in 2012 was higher than the national violent crime rate average by 54.77% and the city property crime rate in Louisville Metro was higher than the national property crime rate average by 51.35%.
In 2012 the city violent crime rate in Louisville Metro was higher than the violent crime rate in Kentucky by 168.96% and the city property crime rate in Louisville Metro was higher than the property crime rate in Kentucky by 69.51%.
Louisville’s final figures for 2015 are not yet in, put preliminary estimates indicate that we’re not yet ready to return to the nostalgic days of yesteryear, when folks left their doors and windows unlocked:
Mark Twain is reported to have said, "When the end of the world comes I want to be in Kentucky, because there it will come 20 years later.” He must have been thinking of Louisville when he said that. He would probably not be surprised to learn that the nationwide decline in criminal behavior has been a little slow to arrive here in River City.
Criminal activity is definitely on the decline in America, and murders are happily leading this decline. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report late last year on homicide trends in the United States between 1980 and 2010, showing that homicide nationwide have declined to the lowest point in four decades.
Between 1991 and 2010, the homicide rate in the United States fell 51 percent, from 9.8 per 100,000 residents to 4.8 per 100,000 (Louisville’s rate is about 17 per 100k). Property crimes such as burglary also fell sharply during that period; auto theft, once the bane of urban life, dropped an astonishing 64 percent. And FBI data released Dec. 19 show that the trends continued in the first half of 2011. With luck, the United States could soon equal its lowest homicide rate of the modern era: 4.0 per 100,000, recorded in 1957.
The report says that most murders are intra-racial - the victimization rate for blacks was 6 times higher than for whites, while the offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than the rate for whites - and the number of homicides known to be caused by gang violence has quadrupled since 1980.
Liberals are having a difficult time adjusting to this good news. Charles Lane, writing in the Washington Post, observed that “Crime’s continued decline during the Great Recession undercuts the liberal myth that hard times force people into illegal activity… Contrary to liberal belief, incarcerating more criminals for longer periods probably helped reduce crime.” “Probably?”
Is Mayor Fischer in denial about Louisville’s crime problem? Perhaps he is just conflating our city on the river with that little town in Colorado: