May 10, 2018. WKYT.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – They’re issues that hit close to home for many people: drugs, violent crime, and mental health care.
On Thursday, thousands of people gathered in Lexington to discuss these issues and possible solutions to them at Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action’s (BUILD) annual Nehemiah Action Assembly.
“We know our people and we know our neighborhoods and we know the problems that are facing our city because we are living them,” said Fr. Andrew Hege from Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
For months, BUILD, made up of 26 member congregations, researched these issues coming up with evidence-based solutions.
In front of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, and many others, the group presented their findings asking leaders to listen, respond, and act.
Among their solutions, the implementation of a group violence intervention strategy, something they’ve pushed for before.
“It’s a strategy that focuses on policing in the community,” Hege said. “Focusing on those who we know are at risk for violent crime and really targeting those areas in a very strategic way.”
Community members presented Mayor Gray with letters by the Chattanooga Police Department and Gifford’s Law Center touting the group violence intervention strategy and its effectiveness in other cities.
When asked if he would agree to contract with National Network for Safe Communities and implement the strategy, Mayor Gray agreed to work with the organization and examine the results of a detailed problem analysis.
“We, fortunately, are already in communications and negotiations on the detailed problem analysis with the national network,” Gray said. “We want to get the full project, yes, but first we have to do the detailed problem analysis.”
Community members also called on leaders to continue funding mental health court and improve the local needle exchange program by adding more hours and locations.
People left the assembly feeling optimistic their voices will be heard and change will come.
“Because we’ve seen what happens when the people come together with one voice – the voice of justice,” Hege said.
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