Nashville police say they have a plan to curb the city’s escalating homicide rate, but it will take time and community involvement, reports The Tennessean in a continuation of its series, “The Cost of Murder.” Says Police Chief Ronal Serpas: “No one police department on its own can stop homicides. A department can deploy officers and make a block safe, but what makes it permanently safe are the residents.” The department’s plan is a blend of aggressive policing and community outreach. Serpas said it is already paying dividends with crimes other than murder.
Most major crime fell in 2005, and the crime rate is again down this year – by 12.5 percent – through May. The chief credits his department’s new aggressiveness in tracking down those with outstanding warrants, as well as a policy that ratchets up charges against those involved in assaultive crimes, especially ones with firearms. “We are spending a lot more time on non-homicide shootings,” Serpas said. “If we act quickly enough we can intervene before a situation escalates into a homicide.” While firearms are used in the majority of murders in the city, the chief ruled out restrictive gun-control laws like those in New York City as a practical solution. Instead, his department is focusing on punishing those who use firearms in crimes. They are being charged under federal and enhanced state laws that carry more severe punishment, the chief said; 161 suspects face such charges. Now the chief wants to target the parents of young criminals. “You see these young men out at 4 a.m. and you ask, ‘Where are the parents?’ ” Serpas said. “We have to end this notion that families are not responsible. Parents with co-criminal behavior will be arrested. We want to send a clear message that shirking your duties as a parent is no longer acceptable.”