When Nashville Fraternal Order of Police president Robert Weaver worked as a Metro Nashville Police Department detective in 2005, Nashville suffered nearly 100 homicides that year.
The East Precinct alone, where Weaver worked, was tasked with solving 18 murders that year.
But this year, as of June 27, there have been only 19 murders in the entire city, a figure that puts Nashville on pace to have the lowest homicide number since the creation of uniform crime rate statistics in 1963.
“We’ve been pretty aggressive as a police department,” Weaver said. “That may be some of the success paying off.”
There were 27 homicides at the mid-point of 2012, and the year ended with 62. The numbers were lower in 2011, when just 23 murders occurred in the first six months of the year. The final tally of homicides in 2011 was 51, the lowest number since 1966.
If the pace through June 27 continues for the rest of the year, Nashville would wind up logging approximately 38 homicides. In 1963, the number was 45. And according to U.S. Census data, only 170,000 people lived in Nashville back then, compared to nearly 600,000 now.
But Weaver warns against making predictions when it comes to homicides, due to the nature of the crimes.
“It’s hard to peg a reason for why the numbers are down. Each individual homicide has its own motives and factors that may or may not play into the larger picture,” Weaver said.
“Homicides are very hard to predict as a pattern. Other crimes like car burglaries have a regular time and place, and if you can get your assets in position, you can disrupt those. ... Homicides don’t really work that way.”
But Weaver still pointed to a few key MNPD initiatives that may be helping to drive the numbers down, namely cracking down on gangs and beefing up neighborhood involvement.
“Some of the work that our gang unit has done ... they work all across the city focusing on certain offenders,” Weaver said. “That’s what pays off. If you can disrupt the gang operations, you’re going to reduce some of the conflicts and squabbles.”
MNPD has also focused on increasing neighborhood presence and community involvement. The precincts added more than 40 community watch groups between 2009 and 2011.
“A lot of the success is community engagement. We’re at the neighborhood watch groups,” Weaver said. “We’re attending over 1,000 community group meetings a year. That helps people be engaged in the police department, and anecdotally, it could lead to good information.”
But Weaver also acknowledges that there is still much work yet to be done. A bad week or an incident with multiple victims could sway the numbers.
And from the police perspective, one homicide is one too many, Weaver said.
“The numbers are down, but every homicide does have victims and family members that are having to cope with a loss of a loved one.”