Knoxville, Tenn., is relying on research to fight a surge in shootings, the Associated Press reports. Knoxville’s program, in reaction to a dramatic rise in shooting deaths, includes policing changes and other efforts. It does not count on new gun restrictions. As in other cities, violence escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. As shootings accelerated, Mayor Indya Kincannon turned to Thomas Abt, whose book, “Bleeding Out,” offers a plan for cities that includes having police and community organizations work together. Knoxville became the first city to sign up with Abt’s program, which teamed with an outside researcher to analyze its violent crime.
The effort involves church leaders and a range of community organizations. A goal is to increase public trust in law enforcement, which sometimes has been abysmally low. Research showed that the average age of shooting suspects was 28, and for victims, 29. Only 12% of homicides were solely gang-related. The research also supported police data showing most gun violence happened in a few “hot spots,” mostly in East Knoxville. Even before the analysis was completed, the city funded Turn Up Knox, a nonprofit. It uses ex-offenders, violence survivors and other community members to identify those most likely to be shot or to become shooters in the future. Some experts and residents have reservations. Abt is “very respected” and focuses on immediate steps to reduce gun violence, but he doesn’t emphasize longer-term programs to alleviate poverty and racial disparities, said Jim Mercy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Residents note the East Knoxville area has few stores, few safe places for kids to have fun, and limited opportunities for summer jobs.