As Lexington grows, so does its crime


Jack Weaver

Police vehicles are parked along University Avenue after responding to reports of shots being fired on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Shelby Helton, Reporter

Growing up in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, was more or less like any other small town across the country: you have your Walmart and Kroger, a couple of Dollar Stores, your typical fast food chain restaurants, a movie theater/bowling alley combo and a JCPenney. That was it.

Out of boredom, we would park our vehicles in front of the local ATV shop and hang out with our friends. Lexington was a treat for small town kids like me. If you were lucky, on the weekends you could dress up a little, get in the car, drive a little bit down the interstate, go to Logan’s Roadhouse or Rafferty’s in Hamburg, go to Target after, then maybe go shopping.

Lexington to me was like someone from Lexington looking at Cincinnati or Nashville; it was fancy, it was nice, it was shinier and brighter.

A lot of kids in Kentucky either dreamed of going to University of Kentucky or University of Louisville; I always dreamed of going to the University of Kentucky. I mean, growing up watching Tayshaun Prince, Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo in the early 2000s and watching John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis was a treat.

But moving to Lexington in 2014 and living here off and on for 8 years has definitely changed my perception of what it was like when I was a kid.

We all have noticed it. There have been consistent shootings already this year. It’s only October and we have already beat last year’s record. The hospital’s emergency rooms are exhausted with gunshot wound victims, and the hospitals are having to go on lockdown because of a looming threat of someone coming to finish the job.

Why has it gotten this bad and why haven’t we fixed the problem? Has it just been the past two years or has it been a progressing problem?

I wanted answers. So I did some digging.

According to the FBI Crime Data and Kentucky State Police Crime Data, over the past 21 years (not including 2022), Lexington has became increasingly violent in shootings, homicides, rape, assaults, burglaries, larceny, vehicle theft and arson.

Between 2000 and 2010, there were 175 homicides in Lexington. From 2011 until now, there have been 292 homicides in Lexington, nearly double the amount from 2000 to 2010.

As I am writing this, 2022 is tied with 2021 with 37 homicides; most of those (both years) resulting in shootings.

In 2021, there were 135 shootings (not resulting in homicide) compared to this year with 103 shootings (not resulting in homicide), the latest being on Oct. 2.

As homicides have gone up, everything else has gone down. But that is nothing to jump up and down about. Lexington has one of the highest property crime rates in the country, while violent crime is below the national average.

According to data from both the FBI, Kentucky State Police and Lexington Police Department, the rate of homicides started to spike in 2016 with 28 homicides, compared to 2015 only having 15. Also according to those reports, the amount of rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson went up in 2016 but have steadily declined.

Between 2000 and 2010, there were only 175 homicides in Lexington. From 2011 until now, there have been 292 homicides in Lexington, nearly double the amount from 2000 to 2010.
Carey Holbrook, a recent UK grad and native of Lexington, was cyberstalked last year to the extent that she had to file a report with Lexington PD, and she still doesn’t have any answers.

“It’s been over a year since this happened, I have not had any updates from this case, they still don’t know who it is. I am still looking over my shoulder,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook feels like the police brushed over her case. Holbrook also had a friend that was a victim of a random violent attack that left them in the hospital in a coma.

“I have felt relatively safe in Lexington, but my parents have always told me nothing good happens after midnight. My friend was just walking in a parking garage downtown after coming from a wedding and got violently assaulted, resulting in him having multiple brain surgeries. They still don’t know the perpetrator either. That has definitely shook me,” Holbrook said.

The rise in crime could be attributed to many reasons including the ongoing recession and inflation, shortage of police officers and public officers including 911 dispatchers, the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase of drugs being trafficked.

Many cities across the country are offering hiring incentives to hire more police and 911 dispatchers. According to the Lexington Police Department, they currently have 639 sworn officers and nearly 150 civilian personnel.

But is it enough? Lexington’s population has been on the rise and people continue to move here.

But will hiring more police officers help or make things worse? Will they be trained correctly? Will they be unbiased in their arrests or reports? The tension between civilians and law enforcement is still high; #BlackLivesMatter is still present and police shootings are still rampant in this country.

Maybe Twitter and Facebook have made us notice what is happening in our communities more. News publications are using Twitter and Facebook to release ongoing news; sheriff, state and local police departments are using social media to help track down perpetrators of crimes or ask if civilians have any info in any ongoing investigations.

Facebook users are creating groups and pages like “Lexington- Fayette County Crime Watch” with over 7,000 members, “Lexington, KY Crime News and Missing People” with over 3,000 members and smaller Facebook groups for Lexington neighborhoods like “Blackford Oaks Neighborhood- Lexington, Ky.”

Many tips from users have helped solve cases here in Lexington and the surrounding areas. Users from these groups also encourage others with safety tips, places to avoid and report crime activity in their area.

Maybe social media has created civilian watchdogs; maybe more people care about what’s going on in their community. Many people are tired of having to avoid going out downtown and spending time with family and friends because the risk of getting assaulted, robbed or shot is there.

This is just an observation I have made during my time living here in Lexington. It is so much different then when I was a naive kid making weekend trips with my family here.

Is my hometown innocent? No. Crazy stuff happens there too. But everyone in the world has heard of Lexington, Kentucky, horse capital of the world, home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, Henry Clay and bourbon.

We have to take care of the people in this city and keep our communities safe.