As teen homicides increase, a look if city initiatives are working

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After Nashville’s youth violence spiked two years ago, city leaders launched a number of programs to combat the issue–but are they working?

Twenty-three teenagers have been killed so far this year. That number is up from 2015, when Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said Nashville had a youth violence problem.

On Monday, one 18-year-old allegedly killed another 18-year-old on a public bus, reportedly over a relationship with one of the shooter’s family members.

At a vigil for the victim, Tyvonceea Hayden, held in Bordeaux, the victim’s grandfather spoke out.

(Photo: WKRN)

“This ain’t fair,” said Reginald Boleyjack. “And for all y’all young people, let’s stop. We killing each other.”

“I’m going to miss him very dearly,” said Hayden’s great-aunt. “He was a joy to everybody’s heart.”

Since the youth violence spike in 2015, a number of changes have been made. Mayor Megan Barry launched the Opportunity NOW program, which provided 8,000 jobs and internships to youth aged 14 to 24 this year alone.

The juvenile court system has pushed a restorative rather than punitive program, and Metro police offer interventions, counseling and family programs for at-risk youth.

According to Mayor Barry’s office, overall, the number of juvenile crime victims year-to-date is down more than 6 percent for all Part I offenses, which include rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and homicide.

However, looking at numbers provided by Metro police, the number of gunshot victims aged 13 to 17 has increased this year from 26 victims to 38 victims.

(Photo: WKRN)

“While there are no easy answers to the issue of gun violence, which has taken far too many lives in Nashville, especially our youth, I remain committed to working with the community and the MNPD to do what we can to help prevent future tragedies like this from happening again,” said Mayor Barry in a statement.

“In order to do that,” she continues, “We must find better ways as a society to get illegal guns off of our streets and out of the hands of kids and dangerous criminals. That means lawful gun owners should be responsible and safely secure their weapons so that they don’t end up in the wrong hands, as well as state and federal officials doing whatever they can to stem the flow of guns that are used to commit crimes and acts of violence.”

A Metro police spokesperson said while there’s work to do, what has been done already might have prevented violence, though there’s no way to tell.

Juvenile Court Administrator Kathy Sinback believes the initiatives are working and says it will take longer than one year to see the benefits fully.

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