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TBI crime report shows most crime down, although murder is up

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's annual crime report is out, and it continues to show most crimes are down. The total number of crimes reported last year was down by 1.09 percent, although certain individual types of crime were up.

According to Governor Haslam and TBI Director Mark Gwyn's press release, the Tennessee Crime Report is drawn Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System includes some more detailed information about each incident than the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. The incidents are reported by local and state law enforcement to the TIBRS, and each year a detailed report is created. Trends are not emphasized; the report is a snapshot of the previous year's crime.

Why does it matter to a criminal defense attorney whether crime is up or down? When people hear about crime being up, they become more afraid. When crime is down, they tend to be less afraid, and fear can be toxic. Fear causes judges and juries to overlook signs that a defendant might be innocent -- even though putting an innocent person in prison means a guilty person goes free. Fear is the enemy of a democratic society and a stable justice system.

That's why it's important to note that, although most of the news in this year's crime report was positive, The Tennessean led with the fact that the murder rate in 2016 was up 11.6 percent of 2015. Although accurate enough, it leaves out important context, which is that the total number of murders last year, 470, was relatively low. The additional 64 incidents were enough to drive the substantial increase in the murder rate, but it's unclear whether that represents a trend. However, murder was also up in 2015 over 2014.

Moreover, The Tennessean focused much more on the types of crime that were up and skipped much of the less fear-inducing trends. So, here are a few other takeaways from the 2016 Tennessee Crime Report, with background data from the 2015 and 2014 reports.

The crime rate was up in 2016 for these offenses:

  • Murder - up 11.6 percent
  • Narcotics/drug crimes -up 9.5 percent
  • Weapons offenses - up 14 percent
  • Assault - up 0.9 percent
  • Domestic violence - up 0.95 percent

In better news, most other types of crime were down across Tennessee:

  • DUI - down 3.4 percent
  • Larceny/theft - down 4.2 percent
  • Burglary - down 8.6 percent
  • Prostitution - down 14.3 percent
  • Forcible rape - down 2.8 percent
  • Kidnapping/abduction -down 6.3 percent
  • Juvenile offenses - down 7 percent

Most important:

  • Statewide, crime was down last year by 1.09 percent
  • Arrests for Group A offenses (the most serious) were down 6.9 percent
  • Arrests for Group B offenses were down 1.9 percent
  • Juvenile arrests were down 6.9 percent
  • Even with increases in the murder, assault and domestic violence rates, crimes against persons were up only 1.1 percent

Domestic assault is of special interest to the TBI

One area that the TBI pays close attention to is domestic violence. This crime of special note because it takes place within a family or domestic relationship, which once meant that police were reluctant to get involved. Therefore, the number of cases cleared becomes of some importance.

Just as important, however, is that domestic assault carries the potential for false accusations. Although most reports are true, the events most often occur with no witnesses. Moreover, a false domestic violence accusation, more than many other allegations, can have a profound and concrete impact on the accused person's legal situation.

Therefore, it's a good idea to have an accurate idea of domestic violence in Tennessee. A few things you may not know:

  • 28.6 percent of domestic violence victims were male
  • 29.4 percent of arrestees were female
  • When a weapon was involved, 76.7 percent of the time the weapon was part of the assailant's body
  • 58.2 percent of victims were white, 48.8 were black, and less than 1 percent were other
  • 6 percent of domestic violence victims were between 55 and 64
  • 66.7 percent of domestic violence incidents involved simple assault
  • Domestic violence made up 51.3 percent of all crimes against persons in 2016
  • 59.2 percent of 2016 domestic violence cases have been cleared

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