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Tennessee is ranked as the most dangerous state in the nation, according to recent statewide statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, Winchester doesn’t follow the same trend.
Although crime patterns throughout the state have been on an upswing, the reverse has occurred in Winchester.
The Volunteer State earned the title of state with the worst violent crime rate in the country. According to the FBI, violent crime includes murder, aggravated assault, robbery and rape.
The state ranks in the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies and holds the top spot for aggravated assaults.
While violent crime rates are on the rise across the state, Winchester has seen a 34 percent reduction in violent crimes from 2005 to 2012, according to a report released by Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young.
“In 2005 we peaked with the highest crime rate (17.8 percent of our population as victims) in the history of Winchester with a total of 1365 crimes, of which 411 were violent crimes,” Young said. “Since the start of drug court and the Franklin County Prevention Coalition we have witnessed a 41 percent reduction in the overall crime rate per population from 2005 to 2012, and consequently a 34 percent reduction in violent crimes.” Young says the numbers for 2013 are even lower. According to his report, there has been a 14 percent reduction compared to 2012 when tabulating the first six months of each year. Young said he believes the decrease in crime in the city can be attributed to the proactive stance Winchester has taken in fi ghting crime. “The largest category for violent crime is domestic violence, as a result, the Winchester Police Department has made it mandatory for all officers to attend extensive mandatory training on domestic violence and we have created an internal task force to follow up on all domestic violence cases, assist in the prosecution of these cases, and enforce orders of protections diligently to help curb reoccurring violence,” he said. “Domestic Violence is the ultimate bullying crime assisted by a bottle full of courage (liquor or drugs).
“We are combating these crimes with a proactive approach through education, intervention, and prevention.”
Young said the majority of violent crimes, including assaults and murder, are linked to drug use and abuse.
“The majority of all murders and other violent crimes have a linkage to drugs,” Young said. “We have to be diligent in our efforts to curb drug usage and addiction. We as a community have to create an environment where drugs will not be tolerated.
“Education is a key element, not only the youth, but the adults as well.”
In addition to a proactive approach by the police department, Young credits the collaboration between local and state law enforcement agencies and community initiatives for the dip in the city’s crime rate.
“With the recent passage of our local “Stop Meth Now” ordinance, I expect that 14 percent reduction figure to go up,” he said. “We are witnessing a 70 percent reduction in meth labs since inception of the ordinance regulating the primary precursor for the manufacture of methamphetamine, and associated crimes are dropping.”
Young and other community leaders say they believe that numbers prove their efforts work and hope to share their success with other communities across the state.
“Crime reduction through community prevention, intervention, and mobilization works,” Young said. “This year we have strengthened our partnerships with state and federal agencies, specifically, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and National Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Initiative, and we are working toward fostering partnerships across this state with municipalities and county coalitions to carry our message for success statewide.
“We can make this a safer community and state for our children, all we have to do is try.”
According to the nationwide study, an estimated 479.6 aggravated assaults occur in Tennessee for every 100,000 residents.
Tennessee racked up 41,550 violent crimes in 2012, up 6.8 percent from 2011. Murder rates were also up for the second year in a row, with 388 murders in 2012.
The study reveals that the majority of violent crimes occur in metropolitan areas like Nashville and Memphis. Nashville ranks as the 18th worst, while Memphis ranks as the 5th worst in the nation. Rounding out the top 10 most dangerous states are Nevada, Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, and Oklahoma.
Tennessee, like many states with high crime rates, has a high poverty rate and lower high school and college graduation rates compared to other states, the study says.
Tennessee has a 17.9 percent poverty rate, and only 24.3 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher education.
Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of violent crime have lower rates of education and most have income levels below the national median.
Exceptions to the rule include Alaska, Delaware and Maryland. All three have higher rates of education and income than the national average, but still made the top 10.