Violence in Lexington becoming key issue in mayoral race

Violence in Lexington becoming key issue in mayoral race
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:01 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - With just two months until the Kentucky primary, the Lexington mayoral race is starting to heat up.

Gun violence and crime are becoming a key talking point. All three candidates say it’s a priority of theirs.

On Friday, the NAACP released a statement about their concerns on the violence. It said while Lexington has made progress with some policies like the Commission for Racial Justice and Equality, there is still a long way to go to enact change.

They went on to say although they voiced some concerns to Mayor Linda Gorton, they ultimately support a group of violence intervention strategy.

The three running for mayor, including Mayor Gorton, have differing ideas of how to address the violence.

Coming off a record year for homicides in Lexington, and seven already reported this year, activists are calling for action from the city.

“It’s frustrating when it can be stopped. Not saying down to zero percent, but if we can cut it in half,” BUILD activist Cheryl Birch said.

The violence increasing in the city, including recent shootings and homicides downtown, is becoming a top issue in the race for mayor.

“We’re sitting here and our community is coming to us and saying in a strong voice, ‘We need action, we need something done,’” mayoral candidate David Kloiber said.

“When we have a system and program in place across the nation that we could bring here to Lexington, but we don’t have the political will to do it, then that’s a problem,” mayoral candidate Adrian Wallace said.

Kloiber and Wallace are running against Mayor Gorton, who has been criticized by anti-violence groups for not adopting a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy that supporters say unite police and the community to curb violence. WKYT’s Chad Hedrick asked Mayor Gorton earlier this week about why the city hasn’t adopted GVI.

“We are focused on Lexington-specific solutions to violent crime,” Mayor Gorton said.

Kloiber, who is an Urban County Council member, and Wallace, are critical of the reasoning.

“Turning a blind eye to GVI is mostly saying we need to reinvent the wheel here in Lexington with something that we think is going to be better than what is proven to have worked across the country,” Kloiber said.

“We have got to have a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime in Lexington. GVI is absolutely a piece of it. To say, ‘It’s Lexington and it wouldn’t work,’ I would say it’s ill-informed at best,” Wallace said.

After leaders of BUILD held a rally outside of City Hall Tuesday, Mayor Gorton released a statement saying in part that she continues to work aggressively with community partners to address homicides, and touts violent crime as a whole is down four percent from 2020 to 2021.

“We all know that our neighborhoods need to be safe, and the foundation of a really great city is public safety, because the rest builds on that,” Mayor Gorton said.

Kloiber said he is critical of the Flock camera system, saying he believes they’ll be useful in investigating crimes, but won’t help prevent crime.

Wallace said in addition to GVI, there needs to be a focus on mental and public health.

You can find Mayor Gorton’s full response to BUILD by clicking here.

BUILD is planning a rally for Tuesday evening where they will read their own response to Mayor Gorton. They claim her statements were misleading and tried to discredit the group.

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