NASHVILLE, Tenn. - At East Nashville’s James Cayce Homes, violence knows no holidays. Just two days before Thanksgiving, Horace Whitley became this neighborhood’s 6th murder victim in 2017.
Metro Police Sergeant Marty Reed was one of the first officers on scene that day. He takes the violence in this community personally. It’s why he’s helping to test out a new way of building relationships with those who live in James Cayce.
“We are on walking patrol. We walk through here just at random locations and make contact with citizens. Just in the last three months, I’ve seen a dramatic change during the shift that we work in any kind of violence or criminal activity,” Sgt. Reed says.
The thought may seem obvious: more police, less crime. But they’re trying to go deeper than that. It’s also a chance to get to know their neighbors by name.
“The vast majority of juveniles over here are perfect. They do everything they’re supposed to do. It’s the few juveniles that have trouble who we see over and over,” Sgt. Reed adds.
Sergeant Reed points to the revolving door of criminal justice as one of the reasons for an uptick in crime. Arrest someone one day, and they’re out of jail the next.
“What I see here in Nashville is children coming up in a violent world and becoming violent themselves,” Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson says.
For Chief Anderson, one of the most disturbing trends he’s seen lately is that criminals are getting younger and younger.
“Unfortunately, there’s not persons in those young children's lives who push them forward or give them encouragement. So our police officers in many situations are the bridge to the community,” he adds.
Nashville is on track to have one of its most violent years of record. There’s been close to 100 homicides closing in on the city’s grim record of 112 from 20 years ago. Shootings as a whole are up 40 percent over last year, and the number of juveniles shot this year between the ages 13 and 17 is up 46 percent.
“The one word answer I have to everything is hope. If you grow up in an environment where you have no hope of a future, then you fall into a crowd or with associates or friends that fall into gun violence,” the Chief says.