WKYT Investigates | Lexington’s police chief talks stemming the tide of violence
Stopping the violence will take time, community involvement and cooperation, Chief Lawrence Weathers said.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The city of Lexington remains on pace to break last year’s record-high number of homicides.
So far this year, 24 people have been killed in homicides in the city, according to the police department’s public list. At this point last year it was 19, on the way to 34 people in total.
Shootings - fatal and non-fatal - have occurred with some frequency this summer. Last weekend, seven people were injured in three separate shootings within a 24-hour span. Five people were injured in one of those shootings alone.
In an interview Friday morning at police headquarters, Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers reiterated to WKYT’s Garrett Wymer that the vast majority of crimes like that are not random. The people involved somehow know each other, have had dealings before or have been involved in some sort of incident that leads to it.
Yet more than half of Lexington’s homicide investigations from 2021 are still open.
Chief Weathers said that witnesses and victims are beginning to speak up more, helping investigators solve crimes, but they also need more cooperation to help prevent them.
“Every little bit helps,” he said. “Sometimes it’s like putting a puzzle together: every little bitty piece has a purpose, and we try to connect those. It is getting better, but we want it to be much better. And we need people to call in when something happens, but we also need people to call in before something happens.”
He said, a lot of times, there are rumblings in the community - or even on social media - beforehand. Sharing anonymous tips about beefs beforehand could allow other community partners to get involved and stop shots from ever being fired.
Chief Weathers said he believes the city is making progress in its fight against gun violence.
“We didn’t get here overnight. We’re not going to clean it up overnight, we’re not going to make it better overnight,” he said. “Talking about systemic issues and things like that, those things happen over time. To back those things up and reverse some things that are happening, it’s going to take time.”
Chief Weathers said that despite the welcoming, small-town feel, Lexington is not a small city, and some of the crime could be considered “growing pains,” as Mayor Linda Gorton mentioned in a recent interview on Kentucky Newsmakers with Bill Bryant.
The police department has dozens of vacant officer positions. Chief Weathers said they can pull from other bureaus to cover patrol if needed temporarily, but they are also boosting hiring.
“If you want to see things change for the better, be part of it,” he said. “Come and work for us. Come and police this city.”
Still, Chief Weathers says the answer is not just a stronger police presence, but all community partners coming together. That includes government, schools, churches, neighborhoods and parents.
Six of Lexington’s 24 homicide victims in 2021 were 18 years old or younger.
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