Although the overall crime rate decreased last year, the number of homicides increased by 4 percent statewide, according to data in the Crime in Tennessee 2011 report that was released last week.
According to the report, the homicide rate bucked a two-year trend of continued declines, increasing to 375 victims, of which 56.7 percent knew their offenders.
In 2009, 472 people were murdered. A year later, Tennessee experienced a sharp drop of 112 fewer homicide cases, bringing the 2010 total to 360 people.
Despite the increase in 2011 of reported homicides, this is the third year in a row that the statewide crime rate, which fell by 1.7 percent, has decreased compared with the previous year.
The state has seen crime drop a total of 4.6 percent since 2009, said Kristin Helm, public information officer for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, in a press release.
“The largest majority of crimes reported were committed against property, at more than 58 percent, which is a decrease of 2.5 percent from the previous year,” Helms said. “Crimes against persons also decreased approximately 2 percent, however, crimes against society increased 3 percent.”
The number of domestic violence cases also rose, making up more than 52 percent of all crimes against persons.
The statewide trend mirrors that of preliminary statistics the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice released in December 2011, as part of the annual Uniform Crime Report.
The results, which have not yet been finalized, revealed that the number of violent crimes reported in the first six months of 2011 declined by 6.4 percent when compared with figures from the first half of 2010.
“Safe neighborhoods are the underpinning of our nation’s prosperity, and this Department of Justice has made protecting the American people from violent crime a top priority,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in press release. “The results of the 2011 preliminary Uniform Crime Report show that the decline in violent crime in recent years has continued.”
Holder said much of the credit should be given to state and local agencies, as well as federal prosecutors and agents who have increased participation through “shared efforts to hold accountable those whose illegal activity spread fear” into communities throughout the country.
“We have targeted violent criminals involved in gang-related activity from Florida to California, organized crime networks in cities across the United States and drug trafficking organizations that extend beyond our borders,” he said.
Ensuring that state law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources is critical to keeping the positive momentum going, he said.
“Although we can all be encouraged that violent crime rates continue to decline nationwide, it is clear that we must remain vigilant as more work remains to be done,” Holder said.
Perhaps the most troubling statistic, he said, is the surge in law enforcement fatalities.
For the second straight year, law enforcement fatalities nationwide rose by 13 percent in 2011 with 173 federal, state and local officers killed in the line of duty, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.
In Tennessee, five law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, three of which died responding to domestic violence incidents in Memphis, Dickson County and Wartburg, located in the eastern section of the state.
Another officer was shot and killed after responding to a robbery at a pawnshop in Chattanooga, and in May 2011, a trooper died in Smyrna while escorting members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds to an air show.
“In recent months, we have seen an alarming spike in law enforcement fatalities,” Holder said. “This is appalling and unacceptable, and it is why we will continue making investments to provide life-saving equipment.”
He said the law enforcement community also recognizes the importance of crime prevention, reducing recidivism rates, and supporting reentry programs for recently released offenders.
“We will continue to support our state and local partners,” Holder said, “in implementing the tough, smart policing policies that we know make a difference in the fight against violent crime.”