Mayor, Chief ramp up actions to improve safety

Mayor Linda Gorton, working with Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, has taken several steps to address a variety of issues and concerns related to public safety and Lexington police.

“Public safety is my top priority,” Gorton said. “I want to be sure we are doing all we can to improve safety.”

Downtown – Tandy Park

First, Weathers realigned extra steps the city is taking to improve safety downtown, specifically in the Tandy Park area.

Extra officers and Sheriff’s deputies have been assigned downtown. Weathers is reconfiguring where they are stationed, and reexamining their assignments. There has not been a shortage of officers downtown, Gorton said.

“We are encouraged that there have been several arrests after recent incidents downtown,” Weathers said. Many of the arrests were aided by Flock license plate readers and local business security footage.

To continue the improvements, additional lights will be added in the park, and some businesses may change their hours.

The Mayor and the Chief have established a Downtown Safety Work Group. This group, which began meeting last year, continues to address concerns in bars and restaurants, property security measures and ABC training. Bar owners have been especially helpful in working through problems, responding to concerns, and shortening their hours.

The city is considering reducing the hours of Tandy Park.

Flock  license  plate  readers

Gorton reported back on the progress made by Flock license plate readers. “We have just gotten the 25 license plate readers that the pilot project calls for in place,” Gorton said. “With just 25 cameras, since March we have recovered over $1.1 million in stolen vehicles, and charged 116 people with crimes.” The license plate readers have also led to the recovery of 11 missing persons, and the seizure of 28 guns.

“Our Flock year-long pilot project is barely six months old, and it’s already clear that the license plate readers are a strong asset … a valuable tool in our toolbox to fight crime,” Gorton said. If the year-long pilot project is successful, ultimately the City will have 100 cameras.

One  Lexington

Gorton said One Lexington is having an impact on the involvement of young people in violence. “So far this year, our homicide numbers are unfortunately up, while among young people ages 13-29, we have seen a 55% decrease in gun-related homicides, and a 12% decrease in shootings,” Gorton said. “That’s progress being made by One Lexington violence prevention program and its community partners.”

The numbers also reveal an increase in homicides that are domestic violence, or related to domestic violence. “In the same time period in 2021, we had no homicides that were domestic violence, or related to domestic violence; in 2022 there have been nine so far. “We have been talking to partners in domestic violence prevention about ways to address this,” Gorton said.

Bluegrass  Crime  Stoppers

Bluegrass Crime Stoppers, a non-profit organization that assists law enforcement by offering a way to report crimes anonymously, has stepped up its work by offering more in cash rewards.

The result is an increase in tips from citizens, including one tip that led to the arrest of a person charged with an unsolved homicide on Charles Avenue. Other arrests from Crime Stoppers tips have included the arrests of three “Most Wanted Persons.”

Crime Stoppers has also increased its presence on social media.

Retention,  recruitment  bonuses

 Finally, like cities across the country, Lexington is experiencing a challenge in recruiting and retraining police officers. As part of the FY 2023 budget, the Council approved $5 million in recruitment and retention pay got public safety employees.

The administration has identified police, corrections and E-911 as the divisions with the most challenges in recruitment and retention.

Next week, the administration will ask Council to approve retention bonuses for sworn employees in Corrections and Police, and for employees in E-911. In addition, recruitment bonuses will be established in these divisions to support hiring.

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