Thursday, April 13, 2006

Nashville Crime Hits Five-Year Low

This article in the Nashville Tennessean this morning was made even more potent by the counterpoint on Memphis television of police officers expressed dismay over climbing crime here, especially the disturbing increase in murders.

It was also made interesting because in recent years, some politicians, notably Attorney General Bill Gibbons, has contended that crime statistics show that Memphis is safer than Nashville. It's been the kind of political rhetoric whose primary response is incredulity, but regardless, since these comparisons were being tossed around for their political impact, it would prove interesting to hear what he and others have to say now.

We know that crime is not a problem unique to our urban area. After all, Atlanta has consistently ranked higher than Memphis for years, and yet, its economic boom continues. However, what is disturbing here is the general resignation that all of us have that we will be victims of some kind of crime, most likely property-related, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Sometimes, you feel that crime is something that happens to other people, but the other day, we were talking about the crimes we'd experienced, and we quit counting when the number went above 20 for the three of us in the conversation. Yes, they were multiple car thefts (apparently, now our birthright as Memphis citizens), stolen purses, house break-ins and similar crimes, but the fact that we just accepted them as part of life in this community was telling and sad.

Here's betting that crime will rear its head as a potential political issue in this year's elections, especially for the county prosecutor.

From the Tennessean:

Crime in Nashville fell to a five-year low for the first three months of the year, paced by steep declines in the number of homicides and auto thefts, according to figures released yesterday by Metro police.

Robbery was the only major crime category to increase during the first quarter, rising 1.1% to a five-year high of 530.

Police Chief Ronal Serpas yesterday celebrated the decline after a year in which Nashville's murders soared more than 67% and all violent crime rose nearly 2%. Thus far, overall crime is down about 13% in 2006, police figures show.

"It is a good healthy sign showing that our community, our employees, and every part of this police department are continuing to work hard to help reduce reported crime," Serpas said.

Individual Metro police officers should get the credit for the drop in crime, said Jack Byrd, attorney for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that represents Metro police officers.

"This shows that the police officers are doing a good job, considering the fact that they are undermanned, overworked, and working in adverse conditions," Byrd said.

The Teamsters, who recently won a contentious election to become the officers' union, have been critical of Serpas' policies, such as an initiative that dramatically increased the amount of time officers spend enforcing traffic laws.

Union officials have said the changes have resulted in lower morale and contributed to last year's increases in some major crime categories.

In recent weeks, the Davidson County Grand Jury also issued a report that criticized Serpas' public safety agenda, saying his policies place too much priority on traffic enforcement and not enough on combating illegal drugs and curtailing violent crime.

Serpas has said that much of Nashville's crime problem is driven by juvenile offenders and called for the involvement of parents, clergy and other sectors of the community to help keep youth on the right track.

The figures released yesterday offer hope that the rise in crime, which has led some to criticize the chief's methods, could be headed down.

But Serpas was quick to caution yesterday that crime in Nashville typically rises during the summer months.

"Last year and this year, and the year before, we continue to plan for that," Serpas said. "The important message to our community is we are aggressive and proactive in trying to solve problems in neighborhoods."

Police and juvenile probation officers have stepped up monitoring at the homes of juvenile offenders to ensure they are complying with court orders, Serpas said. Officers are averaging about 70 home checks per week, he said.

In 2005, at least 100 homicides occurred in Davidson County, up from 58 the year before. It was the third highest homicide total since Nashville and Davidson County became a consolidated Metro government in 1963.

It was also the sharpest year-over-year increase in killings last year among the 35 largest U.S. cities.

During the first three months of 2006, Nashville recorded 16 killings, down from 20 during the same time last year.

Earl Jordan, whose group Partners in the Struggle, organizes anti-violence rallies and other events, said he was most encouraged by the decline in killings.

"That's good that we're down four from last year," he said.

"The community is tired of a lot of the senseless homicides that are going on." •

1 comment:

Jay S. said...

Thats very interesting about Nashville.
Because here in Memphis we are always making National and international news
embarrassing ourselfs, from Joe Brown not meeting with the Iraq delagation and threating to call the bomb squad, to allowing the national media report that Logan Young was murdered. Only to then back track and then say he cut himself shaving or fell down some stairs with a salad, just makes memphis look worse and worse to the
rest of the country.