State Rep. Scott calls out Leet on comments about Beecher Terrace and crime

Councilwoman Angela Leet | Photo via campaign website

Republican Councilwoman Angela Leet issued a statement through her mayoral campaign Friday morning accusing Mayor Greg Fischer of “manipulating numbers” to say that crime is down in Louisville, when shootings, murders and fatal overdoses have doubled since he first took office eight years ago.

As for why crime has recently declined in the First Division of LMPD, Leet stated that this was the result of most if not all residents of the Beecher Terrace housing project moving out of “this former crime bed” in advance of its planned demolition, with other divisions of the county now seeing an increase in homicides.

However, state Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who grew up in Beecher Terrace, took issue with that characterization as incorrect and out of touch, comparing it to Gov. Matt Bevin’s recent comments about the West Louisville Chess Club, and saying Leet is “showing her racist attitude towards west Louisville.”

While the 45 homicides in LMPD’s jurisdiction in 2018 through Wednesday was a 28.6 percent decrease from the total at this point last year, Leet’s statement noted that there were only 49 homicides in 2011, Fischer’s first year in office, compared to the 108 last year and the all-time high of 123 in 2016.

“Seeing a tiny downtick in a few week’s time is not a victory when all Fischer has managed to do is set a new normal of more than 100 homicides a year,” said Leet.

Leet went on to challenge a recent news release from Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith, D-4, that stated homicides were down 67 percent and shootings down 60 percent so far this year in the First Division, which stretches from the Portland and Russell neighborhoods to the west through the Central Business District to Butchertown in the east.

The reason such crime was down in this division, according to Leet, is the total or near-total displacement of Beecher Terrace residents, while other divisions have begun to witness unusual increases in crime.

“The state was spending $15 million annually incarcerating Beecher Terrace residents, and now most — if not all — of Beecher Terrace has been vacated,” stated Leet. “The residents of this former crime bed have simply been moved. So, while the 1st Division’s homicide rate is down, we are seeing homicide in other divisions in the outer parts of the county where we used to see very little crime.”

State Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville

These comments about Beecher Terrace drew fire from Rep. Scott, who noted that her grandmother still lives in the housing project, where most units remain occupied.

“Councilwoman Leet, like her governor, is showing her racist attitude towards west Louisville,” Scott told Insider Louisville. “Councilwoman Leet obviously spends absolutely no significant time west of 9th Street or she would know that less than half of the Beecher Terrace housing units are vacant. Of course, when you fail to see people and only see a ‘crime bed,’ you would be ignorant to the fact that humans still live in the development.”

Scott was referencing Gov. Bevin’s statements in a video released by his office this week, in which he said he was about to meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club, which is “not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town.”

Asked to respond to Scott, Leet’s campaign spokeswoman Sarah Durand told Insider that “it is an indisputable fact that Beecher Terrace has been a hot spot for crime,” then asked: “Is Rep. Scott suggesting that the only people involved in that crime were of a certain race? Because if that’s the case, the community should be outraged by her comments.”

Scott responded: “Well, the majority of Beecher Terrace residents are people of color.”

Durand also told Insider that Leet has helped build more than a dozen Habitat for Humanity homes in west Louisville, and also “held regular office hours” there for several months.

Jessica Wethington, the spokeswoman for the city economic development department, told Insider that 391 of the 758 housing units at Beecher Terrace remain occupied, or 52 percent.

Nine buildings that housed 121 units are completely vacant and scheduled to be the first to be demolished later this summer, while the rest of the units should be vacated by the end of next year — all part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development project to revitalize and transform the Russell Neighborhood.

While HUD has strict eligibility requirements on the criminal history of its tenants, Beecher Terrace has been notorious for decades as an area with a large amount of illegal drug trade.

According to LMPD’s latest detailed crime reports from January through May of this year, other divisions that had a high number of homicides last year have also seen a significant drop in 2018.

In addition to homicides in the First Division dropping 55.6 percent from nine to four in this time period, the Second Division — covering most of the west Louisville — witnessed a 55 percent decrease in homicides, from 20 to nine. The Fourth Division — covering Smoketown, Shelby Park and Old Louisville — had its homicides drop 70 percent, from 10 last year in this period to three in 2018.

However, some divisions on the outer parts of Jefferson County have seen an increase so far this year. In the Eighth Division, covering northeast Louisville, there were five homicides in the first five months of 2018, as opposed to zero in this period last year. For comparison’s sake, in the past five years, there was only a combined total of three homicides in the first five months of these years.

In this same time period this year, homicides also doubled from three to six in the southwestern Third Division, tripled from one to three in the Fifth Division that is east of downtown, and doubled from two to four in the Sixth Division that is south of the Watterson Expressway.

Countywide, this LMPD report shows that while homicides were down 25 percent, total violent crimes decreased by nearly 9 percent and total property crimes decreased by 7.5 percent.

Fischer has stated many times that Louisville’s upward trend in homicides is part of a national trend that has similarly impacted similar-sized cities in the region such as Indianapolis, Nashville and Cincinnati.

This story has been updated.