Leaders, grieving families want to see new program to reduce violence

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A rally Tuesday night in downtown Lexington called on Mayor Linda Gorton to do more to reduce violence in the city.

This comes after another deadly shooting. Police say the 29th homicide victim was 23-year-old Jayontai McCann. He was found shot Tuesday morning behind the Liberty Heights Apartments on Liberty Road.

“I’m tired of being tired of burying our babies,” Andre Maxberry said at the rally. She’s lost several family members to gun violence.

“I lost my grandson, Mykel, my nephew, and the young man who just got murdered this morning he was like a grandson to me,” Maxberry said. “Biologically, no, but you couldn’t tell him he wasn’t mine.”

Leaders within the organization, ‘B.U.I.L.D.,’ say Lexington is on track to beat its homicide rate from last year, 34.

“No matter where you go in our city, you cannot escape the violence,” Pastor Richard Gaines, of Consolidated Church, said.

He said it’s time for Gorton to implement the National Network for Safe Community’s initiative called the “Group Violence Intervention Strategy.”

Gaines, a member of the B.U.I.L.D.,’ said the program has been successful in many cities, and gets to the root of the problem by working with victims and perpetrators.

“It is beyond the norm of what is typically done in policing and caring for our community,” Gaines said.

He said the group recommended the program to Gorton in 2019, and if implemented, it might just help mothers like Cheryl Birch, who lost her son 12 years ago.

“Every single time I hear of another homicide, I get the same feeling,” Birch said. “It’s like I relive that day all over again. I lost my son. I’m here trying to save someone else’s.”

The mayor’s office responded with a statement:

“We all mourn this loss of life. We mourn each individual. That is why we have worked so hard on programs that are specific to Lexington’s needs … One Lexington, Safety Net, hospital-based violence intervention, mediation, and community partnerships. In addition, we implemented five of six recommendations from BUILD. We have made progress in addressing what is really a national challenge, and we are committed to keep working.”

Gorton’s office outlines what the recommendations it says it adhered to:

Implemented at this time:
1. Compare NNSC Findings with current Lexington Police Department intelligence.

The police department has compared the reported findings of NNSC as it relates to the number of “active groups” in Lexington and found it to be accurate as it relates to the parameters used to identify such groups.  The formal identification and possible classification of these groups, and any possible criminal nexus, has been done and continues to be done. Any subset identified in those groups, especially in criminal street gangs, is being vetted and retained for further intelligence purposes.  This practice was being used to address criminal street gangs, but based on NNSC’s recommendation,
It has been expanded to those subjects/groups where an identifiably criminal nexus is determined.  

2. Routinize group audit.

During this analysis the process and methodology used to evaluate the data selected and criteria to identify group violence was freely shared and discussed.  The NNSC work group indicated such audits would be beneficial to identify future trends and ensure data/intelligence is kept current.  Similar audits, which are referred to as Intelligence Briefings in the police department, are done on some of the identified groups as a matter of state law requirement, but the audit’s scope has been expanded to include the additional groups identified by line-officers during NNSC’s initial site visit. The current Intelligence Briefings are held every quarter with various outside agencies and are within the recommended frequency.

3. Begin planning and conducting regular shooting reviews to monitor violence and track group activity.
Such reviews have been conducted within the Bureau of Investigation each week for a number of years and will continue on a weekly basis.  However, based on the recommendation and an internal evaluation of the process, this review/meeting has been expanded to include other units/sections within the police department.  During our conversation with NNSC about this recommendation they agreed that weekly meetings with our outside law enforcement partners may not be warranted due the number of events we experience. A monthly or bi-weekly review might better fit our long-term goals, but the schedule should remain flexible in the event an upturn in such crime occurs and/or a significant event occurs. However, expanding the number of outside entities asked to take part in this monthly/bi-weekly meeting will occur as well. The exact details related to this review is in process now and should be finalized in the next few weeks.

4. Enhance existing intelligence gathering processes with social network analysis.
Different forms of Social network analysis has been used by the police department for a number of years to address intelligence gathering and criminal activities as it related to individuals and groups.  This has played an important role in identifying criminal street gang memberships and activities.  Based on NNSC’s recommendation, this effort has been expanded to the additional groups identified during the analysis and will be utilized in the identification and gathering information on future groups that possess a criminal nexus.  The qualitative approach to this matter will continue to provide the police department with information not readily available via other outlets.  This practice, which has been used successfully in the past a number of times, provides insight into past acts of violence and at times prevents crime form occurring. NNSC and the police department discussed the possibility of members of the police department visiting or at minimum talking with other agencies that use this process to determine if there are any ways to improve current practices or additional software needs.  This is an on-going process.

5. Engage other partners.
During our conversations with NNSC we discussed the open and collaborative relationship we have with members of the local, state and federal public safety community. We further discussed the regular meetings, our monthly Compstat Meetings, task force groups and direct lines of communication between both line-staff and leadership of these entities.  The delineation of responsibilities related to law enforcement and criminal investigations were also deliberated as well.  As a past practice, participation in intelligence briefings and other related activities has been offered to all the parties discussed, but will occur again to ensure these opportunities are known, available to each group, and they are aware of any changes that have been enacted based on the analysis and recommendations.   A number of our partners provided their input and assistance during this analysis and have indicated their continued support in our successful efforts to address violent crime.

B.U.I.L.D. invites people to learn about the  Group Violence Intervention Strategy via Zoom later on October 21 at 6pm. To learn how to attend the virtual event, email buildlex@gmail.com.

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