The April 14 killing of 29-year-old ex-convict Ronnie Lee Parker in Nashville drew little public attention or outcry, says The Tennessean in the first article in a series. It was all too familiar: A young man with a criminal record gunned down on the street in a city that saw a 72 percent spike in murders last year. The city is already on pace to match 2005’s near-record 100 killings. There was little to distinguish Parker’s killing in a city with some neighborhoods so prone to violence that local residents dubbed one notorious housing project “Dodge City.”
The Parker slaying – like the other 42 in the city so far this year – will cost taxpayers in ways few realize. They are likely to be paying the bill for decades. This is an aspect of murder routinely overlooked: the financial impact on families and the community. In most murders, that impact ensnares a wide and unlikely circle of people. A day-care worker was killed in December 2004. He left behind a pregnant fiancée and their 2-year-old daughter. The killing set in motion a series of events that have cost taxpayers more than $40,000 and could end up costing in excess of $2 million. The financial cost associated with murder is an issue that grieving families and public officials gingerly avoid. In fact, no government agency or private organization tracks it. But a six-month investigation by The Tennessean found that homicides cost state and local governments more than $110 million each year. The bill for Nashville alone, which has accounted for 17 percent of the state’s homicides over the past two decades, exceeds $18.7 million annually. The average bill for a murder – calculating expenses from the moment a police investigation begins to the time those convicted of the crime have served their sentences – is more than $626,648.