The Louisville Metro Police have significantly reduced routine law enforcement operations regarding minor crime. This is occurring at the same time I have noticed an increased police presence throughout Jefferson County since Mayor Fisher declared the citywide closure. Police cars patrol my neighbor, nearby shopping centers and Tom Sawyer Park more so than before the shutdown. I do see fewer police cars on the highways which is understandable due to decreased interstate traffic. Regarding the policing of new social distancing orders, LMPD officers have tread lightly. Large groups of adults and teenagers frequently gathered at public grounds in my neighborhood, SpringHurst. Group pickle ball, tennis foursomes, kids/mothers at the playground and clubhouse socializing were commonplace in the early weeks of the pandemic. I witnessed LMPD officers politely disperse the gathering by stressing community health, virus education and even humor. The officers did not resort to heavy handed orders. LMPD’s strategy of using friendly conversation and encouragement to enforce common sense distancing practices has been prudent and effective .This policy method has coincided with a significant decrease in the number of arrests in Jefferson County during the pandemic. Unfortunately, violent crime in Louisville has not enjoyed a similar reduction since the shutdown. Decreased general arrest rates suggest that low level misdemeanors and violations are not being targeted by the police. It will be interesting to see if there is a correlation between a reduction in policing low level crime and the arrest rate of serious crime. Law and order type conservatives claim if police do not aggressively arrest people on minor offenses then those people will graduate to committing more serious crime. This idea that a person who gets away with being a litterbug will naturally ‘graduate ‘ to crimes like robbery, drug use and assault s is preposterous . This thought is part of the Broken Window theory embraced by politicians during the turbulent 60’s.
That theory, which guided legislation promoting more and more laws along with harsher penalties, has been questioned by criminologists, judges, prosecutors, police and criminal defense attorneys for years. The Covid 19 Pandemic period may provide data to further question its validity.