Q&A: Devine Carama answers tough questions on gun violence in Lexington

We recently emailed ONE Lexington Director Devine Carama a set of questions around his program and gun violence in general in Lexington. ONE Lexington’s mission is to coordinate, leverage and mobilize city government and community resources to reduce gun violence with youth and young adults ages 13 – 29 in the city of Lexington. It hopes to make Lexington a safer city by reducing gun violence among youth and young adults. Using community-based intervention strategies to combat gun violence, while simultaneously addressing systemic disparities that lead to the root causes of gun violence.

  • Q: There was recently a shooting at a UK party. LPD still hasn’t released the ages of the victims, as far as I can tell, but one could imagine that they likely fall between the ages that One Lexington serves (13-29, if I remember correctly) if they were at a college party. Does One Lexington work with UK students at all? Anecdotally speaking, it seems like there has been an uptick in shootings along that Elizabeth St corridor near campus the last few years. The alleged shooter had a history of prior arrests. Does One Lexington do work in the jails (juvenile and/or adult)? Do you work with individuals who are out on bail or have cases going through the system? How do you make contact? 
  • A: One Lexington currently works with Judge Carl Devine’s truancy, child support, and youth domestic violence dockets, providing mentoring, wrap-around services for offenders, and other resources. We also facilitate weekly mentoring programs. for the Juvenile Treatment Court Program and the specialty Courts (which features offenders with drug charges, mental health issues, and veterans). Other community partners of ours, such as Y.A.P., O.M.A.C., Fatherhood Initiative, and The Voyage Movement, all provide re-entry services for youth and young adults that are system involved. When I took over at One Lexington last June, there were still COVID protocols that kept us from facilitating programming in the jails and then after that, staffing issues kept us and other community partners from entering the space on a regular basis. We currently have community partners such as YAP (Youth Advocate Program) & The Voyage Movement, finally beginning to facilitate some programs in the Juvenile facility. Re-entry is a part of the P.I.E.R. model that One Lexington operates under. 

  • Q: The person who was actually shot at the party was identified as a woman between 13 and 29. Some of the victims of the Legends mass shooting were also women between the ages of 13 and 29. Does One Lexington do any specific outreach to young women? 
  • A: The only “specific” outreach One Lexington has, are those impacted by gun violence! That includes all races and genders. Our two Be The Change Scholarship receipts were young ladies, we have 5 in-school mentoring cohorts led by women in the community, and many of the gun violence survivors we serve are women. We also provide services for students attending colleges in Lexington, if requested. 

  • Q: Poverty has been identified time and time again as the main statistical driver of violent crime. Is the city undertaking any other efforts to buttress One Lexington’s efforts at reducing violent crime? 
  • A: The Mayor put substantial money into Affordable Housing for the city through the city’s budget and ARPA funding. Also, One Lexington helped to drive participation for the city’s expanded Summer Youth Jobs Program. The work Tiffany Brown does in her new role as Equity Implementation Officer, focuses on root economic issues that lead to gun violence. Earlier this year she led an award-winning expungement clinic where over 200 people from Lexington were able to have charges on their record expunged. She’s also spearheading the city’s Mobile Fresh Food Market. The mayor’s office also launched WorkLex last year which focuses on “second chance” hiring and skills training. Finally, money management, college and career readiness, and breaking generational poverty are all topics covered through One Lexington’s youth programming, as well as by many of our community partners. 

  • Q: In your own words, what happened at the recent forum, and why wasn’t the mayor there? 
  • A: 2 weeks ago, we had a very intense and emotional Community Forum On Gun Violence for the residents in the 8th district. The forum was hosted by One Lexington and Councilmember Fred Brown at Tates Creek High School. Like many districts, the 8th District is very diverse, made up of residents with very different backgrounds and walks of life, but all reeling together from the recent spike in gun violence. Providing a space for residents to come and grieve, express, and ask questions is a vital part in being a good public servant while also informing decisions that the government makes moving forward. During the forum residents asked questions about Flock Cameras, community center access, police strategy, youth jobs, and much more. Some in the audience have lost children to gun violence and some have had no direct experience with gun violence. Though we’ve seen gains in gun violence among youth and young adults, it was a stark reminder that this issue is bigger than statistics and numbers. People are hurting and we can’t forget those being impacted each and every day. The mayor was not there, because we believe her presence would have politicized a space where we wanted to have an authentic and focused conversation about community violence. She actually wanted to be present, but I advised her not to be. Less than 60 days from the election at the time of that event, we didn’t want it turning into a “campaign event” or taking the focus away from the residents. One Lexington is a part of her office, therefore we represent her and her administration in all that we do. Also, we felt it was time councilmembers to get out front and talk about these tough issues as well. 

  • Q: Many in my neighborhood on Lexington’s south side do not feel gun violence is a problem in Lexington, but many in other neighborhoods hold strong views to the contrary. Is gun violence something people should be concerned about? How can we get more people to start helping? How can people get involved? 
  • A: With gun violence taking place in traditionally safe places like the mall, the Legends stadium, downtown, and more affluent neighborhoods, 2022 has shown us that gun violence is no longer a program for one type of neighborhood, or one demographic, but an issue that is impacting all of us! And once we stop looking at this like something that one politician or one program or one group is going to solve, the more we challenge the entire community to step up and be a part of the solution. Ways people can get involved are: Being a mentor for students in FCPS, being a mentor for the Juvenile Treatment Court Program, supporting survivors and those impacted by gun violence (helping with temporary housing, relocation, food, mental health services, faith community support, etc.), adopting Anita Franklin’s saying, “If you see something, say something!” philosophy of policing our own neighborhoods, occupying community spaces with positive programming such as “Neighborhood Block Parties” or “Community Days”, getting involved in your Neighborhood Association, etc. These are just some things that everyday folks can do to get involved in the fight to reduce gun violence. 

  • Q: Anything else the public should know? 
  • A: One Lexington wants the public to know that we don’t focus on gun violence over all, but youth and young adults specifically. The reason for our intentional focus is the data suggest that nearly 3/4 of individuals involved in gun violence (victim or suspect) the last 5 years, fell in between the age group of 13-29. With our capacity being limited, we wanted to be as strategic as possible in our approach. Much of the work we do requires community support because of its grassroots and community-based strategies. Mayor Gorton has heavily supported One Lexington with unprecedented funding for gun violence support. We facilitate youth programs, support other organizations who facilitate youth programming, provide financial and social support for survivors and those impacted by gun violence, mediate conflict in FCPS, and currently working on multiple grant opportunities for grassroots organizations working to reduce gun violence among youth and young adults, and so much more. Our impact through One Lexington is only as strong as the unified community support in Lexington. It’s going to take everyone. 

While Lexington is likely going to break its murder and murder rate record for the second consecutive year, Carama only just took over the program last June and did provide some statistical bright spots in what has been a pretty dismal year overall for crime in Lexington:

Total Shootings Statistics 

Lexington Homicide by Gun & Shooting Statistics

2022 (to date) – 31 homicides 

2021 (at this point last year) – 27 homicides 

+ 4 (more than last year)

Lexington Shooting Statistics (Reported Residents Shot)

2022 (to date) – 104 shootings

2021 (at this point last year) – 106 shootings

– 2 (less than last year)

Comparative Gun-Related Homicide Stats Year-To Date 

5-Year average YTD (2017-2021): 20 homicides 

2022 YTD: 31 homicides 

+11 (above the 5-year average)

Youth & Young Adult Shootings Statistics 

Lexington Homicide by Gun & Shooting Statistics

(Victims ages 13-29)

2022 (to date) – 10 homicides 

2021 (at this point last year) – 20 homicides

– 10 (less than last year)

5-Year average YTD (2017-2021):  12 homicides 

2022 YTD:  10 homicides 

– 2 (below the 5 year average)

Lexington Shootings Statistics (Reported Residents Shot)

(Victims ages 13-29)

2022 (to date) – 66 shootings 

2021 (at this point last year) – 67 shootings 

– 1 (less than last year)

*will provide 3 year shooting averages again at the end of October 

Devine Carama, ONE Lexington Director