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'You wouldn't believe it': Homicides are down, but Lexington's leading antiviolence coordinator calls youth access to firearms 'unfathomable'


The team charged with preventing and intervening in youth violence in Lexington offered lawmakers in Frankfort a glimpse inside their operation Tuesday. One Lexington director Devine Carama had some encouraging numbers and sobering news from the front lines.

In addition to a brief explanation of the community outreach, conflict mediation, and other programs One Lexington offers, Carama said this year’s numbers do show some improvement.

"Last year at this time, Lexington had 24 homicides, 19 of which were gun related. So far this year we've had nine homicides," Carama reported. "This time last year we were approaching 69 fatal shootings in Lexington. Right now we're just over 30."

But the anti-violence coordinator was quick to add that the decline is hardly a reason to celebrate, because many forms of violence still present serious challenges in the community. One issue he highlighted was access to firearms. Carama said he was told by a 14-year-old it’s “easier for him to get a gun than to get a job.”

"It's different, what we are seeing in the streets right now," Carama said. "And I realize it may be different depending on where you are in Kentucky, but in Lexington, what we are seeing you wouldn't believe it. It's unfathomable, the access that they have to high-powered firearms and how many are in possession."

Another subject presenters touched on was a need for more services surrounding reentry programs. A Lexington official said the city will launch a new effort that aims to get people who are incarcerated but nearing the end of their sentence training in entry level skills, like writing a resume, or getting in touch with employers – all before they are released.

That program is set to start next month.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.