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Faced with a staggering increase in local crime, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced today a new government initiative to solve the problem: If you get shot, you will be assigned a social worker.
KentuckyOne Health, Peace Education Program (Peace Ed), the Louisville Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, and the Commonwealth Institute at the University of Louisville announced the launch of an innovative, evidence-informed collaboration to address and prevent violent crime in West Louisville. Pivot to Peace is designed to “build stronger, safer neighborhoods by linking adult survivors of violent gun and knife injuries to community resources.” The program will promote “healthy choices” and avoid further injury or involvement with law enforcement. Ultimately, the goal is to help participants to “pivot,” linking them to resources that promote a healthy, nonviolent life.
Last Wednesday, the mayor was being interviewed by WDRB television, and, while expressing concern over the fact that Louisville’s murder rate had almost doubled in the past year, he rejected the idea that increased law enforcement could solve the crime problem. “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 stated.
Of course, Mayor Fischer’s “overall message” (not to put too fine a point on it) is a lie. While the national crime rate is decreasing, all types of crimes are on the increase in Louisville. 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%.
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 homicides 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).
Over the last two years more than 600 people were treated at University of Louisville Hospital – the region’s only level 1 trauma center – for gunshot injuries. They came from across the region, but the largest numbers came from the Algonquin, California, Chickasaw, Park DuValle, Park Hill, Parkland, Portland, Russell, and Shawnee neighborhoods. These west Louisville neighborhoods face significant challenges including high unemployment, poverty, and crime. All factors which contribute to an average life expectancy seven years less than Louisville Metro.
“My administration is committed to reducing crime and increasing safety across the city. With programs and partnerships like Pivot to Peace, we can more successfully achieve our shared goals,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Too many lives in Louisville are altered or cut short as a result of preventable, violent crime. By treating the root causes of violence and providing a path toward new opportunities, we can break the chain of violence and make our communities stronger.”
Pivot to Peace adapts best practices from hospitals around the country, using guidelines from the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP.org) that sees trauma centers as an environment to teach and engage injured patients, family, and friends. Participants are paired with a Case Worker from Peace Ed who will support them in coping with their injury and assisting with follow-up care. Key outcomes for Pivot to Peace participants include reduced violent interactions and improved educational attainment, employment status, and physical/mental health.
“For more than 30 years our Peace Ed team and Partners have taught violence prevention skills in the neighborhoods and schools at highest risk for conflict and violence in Louisville. We know that providing the skills, safety, and support to individuals can make entire communities stronger and safer,” said Eileen Blanton, Executive Director at Peace Education Program. “Pivot to Peace brings together resources, counseling, and opportunities that present hope for individuals impacted by violence so that they can find a path to a safer, more successful life for themselves, their families, and their community.”
Through Pivot to Peace, University Hospital Emergency Department and Trauma Team staff will identify potential participants: patients aged 18-34 with gunshot/knife injury from violence living in one of the nine West Louisville neighborhoods. A specially trained hospital Community Health Worker will conduct an initial interview with participants and/or family. With permission, a Case Worker from Peace Ed will then be called to meet with and enroll the individual in the free, grant-funded program. The initial focus is to build a trusting relationship with participants to prevent retaliation, promote strategies to defuse conflict, identify short-term needs, and develop a stay-safe plan. Long-term, the Case Workers will follow participants after they are discharged from University Hospital for up to one year, easing the transition into the community and connecting participants to services like education, employment opportunities, and housing. Peace Ed will also provide a continuous series of conflict resolution classes for participants in alternating locations in the community.
“At KentuckyOne Health we have made violence prevention central to our efforts to build healthier communities,” said Ruth Brinkley, CEO of KentuckyOne Health. “Violence is a preventable, public health issue, requiring that we move upstream – not just responding to the consequences of violence but to work toward its eradication. I am so pleased we are taking a bold step to address this issue in collaboration with committed partners.”
The Commonwealth Institute will conduct a rigorous evaluation of Pivot to Peace as the partners work to document outcomes and expand the program to other Louisville neighborhoods.
“It is critical that we act, and act as one, to support underserved communities across Louisville,” said Dr. Eddie Woods, Director of Youth Development for Neighborhood House. “2015 was one of the most violent years in our city’s history, marked by homicides and gun crime. We must join together to address the root causes of this violence and provide opportunities and hope for our communities.”
Pivot to Peace is made possible by grants from the Gheens Foundation, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, and the United States Office of Juvenile Justice/Department of Justice. Two years of funding have been secured to hire program management and staff – including seven Peace Ed Case Workers – the Community Health Worker, and a mental health counselor from Our Lady of Peace who will be part of the case management team. An emergency assistance fund was established to provide for immediate needs of participants such as clothing and transportation. Those who wish to contribute to Pivot to Peace may do so through tax-deductible contributions to the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation.
The Pivot to Peace coalition anticipates enrolling its first participants by March 1, 2016.
So there you have it. Louisville’s murders increased from 55 in 2014, up to 82 in 2015, and Louisville’s liberal Democrat mayor does not propose any increase in police or law enforcement resources. “We're not going to arrest our way out of homicides,” says hizhonor.
But, if you are unfortunate enough to get yourself shot in Louisville, you can rest assured that you will be assigned your very own social worker. That ought to work.