Drug deals gone sour, love triangles that erupted in violence and, the slayings of innocent people just minding their own business made 2005 one of the deadliest years on record in Nashville, says The Tennessean. The 100 homicides in Davidson County last year was up 71 percent from 2004, when area killings dropped to a 37-year low. Police and city officials are at loss to explain the cause of the spike. Experts say it could merely be a statistical anomaly that defies a hard and fast answer. “If you had all the information in the world, you may be left with no explanation at all,” said Robert Weisberg, director of Stanford University Criminal Justice Center. “It really could be random.”
Last year’s surge was the sharpest one-year increase in homicides since Nashville and Davidson County became a consolidated government in 1963. It was also the largest year-over-year increase of any of the nation’s 35 largest cities. When he took over as police chief in 2004, Ronal Serpas vowed to make Nashville the safest big city in America. In a recent interview, he maintained that despite the year’s grim tally, Music City remains a safe place for the vast majority of people who aren’t involved in criminal activity. A Tennessean analysis of the 100 victims and the circumstances surrounding their deaths found that many shared common traits: At least 40 victims knew their killers; at least 40 cases involved drug activity or disputes with romantic partners or other domestic acquaintances; more than half of the victims – 55 – were black, although African-Americans make up 28% of Nashville’s population. The disproportionate representation of African-Americans among last year’s homicide victims is particularly troublesome to groups such as the 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, which has worked to stem the trend by mentoring and tutoring second-grade boys.