Nashville on pace for dramatic drop in teen homicide victims

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the year ends, Nashville has already surpassed its 2015 murder rate of 79 victims. The city has now seen 83 homicides.

But in comparison, youth homicides among teens age 17 or younger dropped dramatically from the year before.

In 2016, there were two victims in that age group, compared to the nine from 2015.

Ricky Hambrick was shot and killed Dec. 20 in Bordeaux. Metro police arrested another teen Kevonta Williams, 16, for Hambrick’s murder on Thursday.

In May, Ladarrius Gentry, 14, was shot and killed at the Knollcrest Apartments on Creekwood Drive off Briley Parkway near Interstate 65.

Mayor Megan Barry held youth violence summits in response to the spike in youth homicides in 2015.

In March of this year, a committee presented its findings after a series of the meetings.

Mayor Barry told News 2 the following about youth violence:

Over the last year, Nashville has seen a dramatic decrease in youth homicide victims, and Metro police have worked hard to keep crime in check in 2016, resulting in a slight reduction in the crime rate overall even as our population continues to grow. Police investigations also have taken more than 2,000 firearms off the streets in each of the past two years. However, the increase in the homicide rate in Nashville and in cities across the country in 2016 is concerning for us all. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives to violence. I remain committed to working with the community to address root causes of crime and violence while also ensuring the MNPD has the support and resources needed to keep us all safe.”

Community activist and organizer Clemmie Greenlee said the reduction in youth homicides is good, but youth crime is still a big problem.

In fact, she expects it to get worse if more resources are not given to neighborhood based programs like the ones she wants to run.

“If we let this go in 2017 and do nothing about this in the next three or four days we have left, it is going to be a bloody summer out here,” she said. “I have a 14-year-old grandson that I am scared to death about right now.”

Greenlee knows firsthand the effects of gun violence on a family. Her son was murdered in 2003, and his case remains unsolved.

“Not all of the kids who get in trouble are from ‘the hood.’ They are kids who have two parent homes, money, nice clothes. These kids have told me they are bored and there is nothing to do.”

She continued, “They don’t have anything presented in front of them that challenge them, so they are angry.”

Greenlee said a number of programs that cater to children who are high risk do not include activities for later in the evenings.

“A lot of these programs are finished at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.,” she said. “Then what do they have to do? Organizations in these neighborhoods where the kids live need funding so we can provide activities where they live.”

At the Davidson County Juvenile Justice Center, the courts are seeing a decrease in juvenile crime, although gun violence among juveniles is increasing.

“It appears to be a small population of the juvenile community committing a majority of the crimes,” juvenile court magistrate Carlton Lewis said. “We are looking for more community partners, more involvement from the community.”

Magistrate Lewis has been on the bench at juvenile court since 1998.

“Eighteen years ago when I started at juvenile court, I had no idea how many kids were dealing with mental health issues,” he said. “That is probably one of the biggest driving factors.”

The court has worked to partner with mental health providers and parents to intervene with children who need help.

“We have more mental health providers in the area that can help than in years past,” he said. “We are also looking at ways to intervene in other causes of youth crime. We just started a gang court in October and had our first graduation.”

The gang court takes young offenders on probation and puts them in a structured  6-week program that includes group therapy and accountability.

“You can see the hope come back to some of their eyes,” Lewis said. “Some of them have already talked about coming back to help the new class.”

To read the full youth violence report from Mayor Barry, click here.