Nashville police handled the lowest number of murder investigations in 45 years in 2011, and leaders say building better relationships with residents may be a factor, reports The Tennessean. Police classified 51 deaths as murders in 2011, the lowest since 1966 when there were 49. The department says 36 of the 51 homicide victims last year were African-American. Ten were white and five Hispanic. In 2010, there were 60 murders in the city.
Police have stepped up their presence in troubled neighborhoods, spending more time talking with residents and working to build trust through neighborhood watch groups and the clergy. The improved relations sometimes allow police to collect information and thwart some violence before it erupts. “While it is very difficult for one agency or group to influence a city's murder rate, a community wide commitment against violence and gun play can make a difference,” said Police Chief Steve Anderson. James Thomas, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, has seen a marked difference in the way police interact with residents. “The black community trusts the police department more than in the past,” Thomas said. “There is a real dialogue with the police department. The black community knows when they walk into the chief's office, the chief will be there.”