Lexington is seeing a surge in homicides, shootings. Can this nonprofit group help?

·2 min read

As the number of homicides and non-fatal shootings continues to climb, Lexington is looking for help from a national nonprofit focused on violence prevention.

The city will spend $100,000 to contract with Cities United, which provides research-backed initiatives to stop youth violence, to develop a program.

The $100,000 contract will be funded through the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, city officials said.

“Cities United has 130 partner communities across the country that are working together to create safe, healthy and hopeful communities,”said Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton. “The plans are tailored to the needs of the individual cities while also benefiting from the lessons other cities have learned. This is a national challenge that is growing. Cities United gives us the opportunity to learn more about the nation’s best practices and frame them to fit Lexington.”

Since Jan. 1, the city has had 22 homicides — seven more than the city had in the same period last year — and 63 non-fatal shootings. Cities across the country are seeing similar spikes in homicides and non-fatal shootings this year. Two people were killed early Sunday morning outside of a Lexington apartment complex. Shaquille Louis Newby, 27, died at the scene of the shooting and Tyler Malahn Sandusky, 26, was taken to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where she died of her injuries, according to the Fayette County coroner’s office.

Cities United also works in Louisville, where a dramatic increase in homicides and non-fatal shootings has occurred.

Devine Carama, the director of One Lexington, will be spearheading the team that will work with Cities United staff on the violence prevention plan. Other people on that team will include youth advocates, police, other members of the criminal justice community, faith leaders and social workers.

Carama said Cities United has studied violence prevention strategies and understands what works and what doesn’t.

“Cities United brings a big picture focus on nationally vetted practices toward making communities safer and more equitable,” Carama said. “When you combine the work ethic and passion of our local organizations working on the front lines every day with the expertise of a national organization like Cities United, I believe we can do some very amazing things.”

The city’s other violence prevention programs will continue, Gorton said. One Lexington provides extensive resources to specific neighborhoods experiencing violent crime and also coordinates violence prevention efforts between the city and nonprofits, and Safety Net targets certain areas for violence intervention.

Many of those violence prevention programs were curtailed or put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council is expected to take its final vote on the contract on Thursday. No council member voted against the measure during a Tuesday work session.