NASHVILLE, TN — Mayor David Briley and Chief Steve Anderson, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal law enforcement partners, announced last week Project Safe Nashville, the city’s largest-ever effort to fight gun crime.
A core component of Project Safe Nashville is the creation of a seven-member MNPD Crime Gun Unit, which is working to identify the persons pulling the triggers in related gun crimes wherever they occur. The unit is using information from scientists at the MNPD crime lab, who are using the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) to analyze and track shell casings from crime guns and connect those weapons to similar crimes in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Based on a 2018 study by Rutgers University, when two shooting events are linked by ballistics evidence through NIBIN, 50% of the time a third shooting event will happen within 90 days.
“Addressing violent crime is a major priority for my administration. Project Safe Nashville is an unparalleled interagency effort to save lives and make our city safer. It is a vital next step in preventing future gun crimes and in successfully prosecuting those who commit violent crimes in our city,” said Mayor Briley. “It will also help us get weapons out of the hands of our kids, allowing us to intervene in their lives before it’s too late. I was very pleased to see the homicide rate for 2018 down by 22 percent, and I know Project Safe Nashville will give MNPD even more tools to support the great work they are already doing.”
The seven members of the Crime Gun Unit were, until recently, gang detectives with considerable experience in the investigation of gun crime.
“The core, full-time mission of the group is to use state-of-the-art ballistic science and intelligence gathering to identify violent criminals who pose the most danger to Nashville citizens, and then work closely with prosecutors at the federal and local levels to ensure that these felons are held accountable for their actions,” Chief Anderson said.
The MNPD’s Crime Gun Unit will work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the District Attorney’s office to support investigations and court proceedings that ensue from arrests made in gun crime cases. Two additional prosecutors have been added to the U.S. Attorney’s office to help handle these types of violent crime cases.
“I became the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee with no purpose in mind other than to try to make a difference and improve the quality of life for all of our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Don Cochran. “The level of gun violence is not acceptable to me or to those who stand here with me today. Project Safe Nashville marshals unprecedented resources from the Department of Justice and the law enforcement agencies represented here today. Our focus is to use scientific methods and innovative investigative techniques as tools to identify crime guns and those who use them and bring them to justice swiftly. Together, we intend to make Nashville and Middle Tennessee an even safer place for all of our citizens and visitors.”
“The Nashville-Davidson County District Attorney’s office recognizes the proliferation of illegal weapons and the effects those weapons have in our community. It’s why we recently adopted a new policy stating that all gun-related cases will be handled at the Criminal Court level and not adjudicated in General Sessions Court,” said Glenn R. Funk, Nashville-Davidson County District Attorney. “We applaud this new Crime Gun Unit, as together we use professional manpower and advanced technology to find these weapons and the criminals who use them, get them off the streets, and make our community safer.”
Project Safe Nashville is also being supported by 10 ATF agents, two of whom will work directly with the Crime Gun Unit. Eight others are divided among the North, South, Hermitage and East Precincts, parts of which have relatively high rates of incidents of gun-related crime. This collaboration will help MNPD and ATF identify and prosecute persons illegally trafficking firearms in the Nashville area.
ATF Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson remarked, “ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence focuses on reducing violent crime and disrupting the shooting cycle that negatively impact our neighborhoods. The priority of protecting the public is evident with the partnerships with the City of Nashville and MNPD.”
The FBI, including MNPD members assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, will support the new unit to continue to look closely at local robbery cases involving firearms that impact interstate commerce – robberies of convenience stores and drug stores, for example – so that those suspects, once identified, can be federally prosecuted whenever possible. The TBI will also support the unit when its work relates to crime within the state.
“The FBI is dedicated to disrupting and dismantling violent crimes in our communities,” said M.A. Myers, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Through Project Safe Nashville, the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to ensure the safety and security of our neighborhoods.”
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.