U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman, at podium, flanked by LMPD Chief Steve Conrad on the left, ATF Special Agent in Charge Stuart Lowrey on the right, and Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, far left. | Photo by Jonathan Meador

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky Russell M. Coleman Wednesday announced that federal gun indictments in Jefferson County have increased by 60 percent compared to the prior fiscal year, at least in part because of an ongoing partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, known as Project Safe Neighborhoods.

In the past year, the agencies have indicted more than 100 individuals with a prior felony on new firearms charges, Coleman said at a news conference.

“Here in Louisville, (Project Safe Neighborhoods) is guns, and it’s gangs, and it’s drugs. That three-legged stool, if you will, that is the infrastructure of violence here in Jefferson County,” said Coleman, who was joined by top law enforcement officials from the city and the region, including Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine and Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad, as well as gun violence victims and their advocates.

The agencies have worked with the state attorney’s office to refer specific cases to the U.S. Attorney so that federal mandatory minimum sentences could be invoked, and Coleman’s office has added six new prosecutors in the past year, allowing them to take on a greater caseload, he said.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Stuart Lowrey, of the Louisville Field Division, broke down the number of firearms that had been confiscated as a result of Project Safe Neighborhoods thus far in 2018: “There were just under 3,500 firearms recovered and traced out of Jefferson County. Of those, 64 percent of those firearms were in the 9 mm, .40 caliber, .380 and .45 caliber semi-automatic configuration.”

Lowrey said that the “time to crime,” the period between when a gun is sold and it is confiscated by law enforcement, was less than a year for 24 percent of recovered firearms found on the street. He added that a further 52 percent of those guns were on the street for less than three years.

The national “time to crime” average, Lowrey said, “is just under nine years. So that gives you an idea that what we’re seeing is a lot of guns, relatively new, out on the street, whether they’re stolen or purchased or trafficked … It tells us there’s trafficking activity going on.”

Lowrey also offered statistics on the relatively young age of individuals possessing firearms. “Thirty-five percent were recovered from individuals less than 25 years of age,” he said.

The data point appears to match a previous analysis by Insider of the increasingly young age of murder suspects.

Conrad praised the merits of the multilateral law enforcement partnership but focused his remarks on an emotional aspect of the numbers — the effect on victims’ families.

“We still have 256 people shot,” Conrad said, referring to the number of shooting victims in 2018. “Those numbers, those aren’t numbers; they’re people. It’s somebody whose loved one has suffered a loss.”

While there have been 70 homicides in Louisville in 2018 so far, recent data shows an overall decline in the number of violent crimes in the city during the past year, with the exception of rape. In 2017, the department reported 105 murders by the end of the year.

Project Safe Neighborhoods began in 2002 under the Bush Administration with a $2 billion initial budget. Despite achieving crime reductions in its initial years, the program has faced criticism in recent years for its human costs and diminishing returns.

Jonathan Meador
Jonathan Meador has covered local and state issues for nearly a decade. He has worked for LEO Weekly, The Nashville Scene and WFPL, and his reporting has appeared in Salon, Gambit and others. He has won multiple awards from the Louisville Society of Professional Journalists, including first-place accolades for best news story, women and minority issues, investigative reporting, enterprise reporting and political reporting. He supports both the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals equally.