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Louisville bars offered sexual assault prevention kits; 'This could happen anywhere'

Alcoholic Beverage Control enforcement officers visited nearly 50 bars in the Highlands on Thursday, offering free tools that test for date-rape drugs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Nearly three months since the pilot program's announcement, a city-funded shipment of tools to prevent sexual assault has arrived and been distributed in Louisville.

Metro and state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) enforcement officers visited nearly 50 bars in the Highlands on Thursday, offering free stickers and cards that test drinks for date-rape drugs.

"We want you to utilize some of these tools," Chief Investigator RT Watkins said. "It is in your best interest to protect the public."

Several women reported a string of sexual assaults that happened in the bar district along Bardstown Road in late May. Some told officers they woke up in places without any memory of how they got there.

The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) is investigating. But as of Thursday afternoon, police haven't made arrests or revealed how many suspects they're looking for.

To give the community an extra layer of protection, Councilmember Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-8) helped fund the $1,000 trial program in partnership with Metro ABC. After weeks of delays, officers received their order this week.

"We lose sleep at night, [so] we're trying to make sure we're protecting everyone [we] can," Enforcement Lt. Brad Silveria said. "It's a common goal."

On Thursday, Chambers Armstrong said bar owners had been calling her in anticipation of the safety initiative, letting her know they wanted to participate.

"I heard last week that we had all the supplies in -- we were ready to go," she said. "We're trying this out, seeing if this is something [they] will find helpful."

Laurie Gillespie, co-owner of DiOrio's Pizza and Pub, was one of them. She told WHAS11 even though her customers haven't reported any incidents, it's smart for bars to take extra precaution given the circumstances.

"Anyone and everyone needs to be looking out for everyone's best interest, all the time," Gillespie said. "This could happen anywhere, so you always have to keep your guard up. And I think to have a more proactive approach and have resources and tools available to ensure you're being taken care of is important."

Chambers Armstrong said this effort is only the start, as each kit only comes with just over 20 tests. The goal is for businesses to buy in and then order more on their own accord.

But she said she's open to potentially funding supply, and stretching to different areas of the Metro if the program sees success.

"They seem to be very easy to quickly check to make sure everyone's OK, and I think if it works out well, we could definitely see ourselves ordering more in the future," Gillespie said.

For a full list of bars visited click here.

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