Nashville Struggles To Understand An Increase In Youth Violence


Nine children who have died as a result of criminal homicide in Nashville this year, and nine people age 18 to 21 also have been killed. That’s more than in each of the past 10 years, and six were victims of gun violence, The Tennessean reports. In addition to the increase in lethal violence among the city’s youth, Nashville has seen a shift from record low homicide counts in 2013 and 2014, with 43 and 41 deaths, respectively. This year the city surpassed those totals by early September, with 46 homicides to date, and two dozen of the 30 people charged in this year’s homicides are 18 or younger. Some call this year a “correction,” a shift back to the average count from the inordinately low numbers of recent years. During the past 10 years, Nashville has averaged nearly 66 homicides per year. Still, law enforcement and community leaders are struggling to understand the surge in lethal gun violence.

“Just because our city had a record homicide low in 2014 does not mean we can let down our guard,” said police spokesman Don Aaron. “We need to constantly mentor our young people and teenagers and teach them that violence is not the solution to resolving disputes. Ron Johnson, who oversees a program at Nashville’s Oasis Center mentoring boys in the juvenile justice system, said he has seen an increase in young people using violence, even lethal violence, to solve disputes and settle scores. “Some of these young people listen to rap music and recognize the scenes they hear. They say, 'That's describing my community,’ ” he said, “so rather than distinguish this music as an art, when rappers talk about retaliating, protecting their honor, many young people see this as their reality as well.”

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