"Project Safe Nashville," Nashville's Largest-Ever Interagency Effort to Fight Gun Crime
Seven-member MNPD "Crime Gun Unit" to Use National Ballistic Science to Track Guns, Find Users
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -January 31, 2019 – In collaboration with the Metro Nashville Police Department and Metropolitan Nashville Mayor David Briley, U.S. Attorney Don Cochran today announced “Project Safe Nashville,” the city’s largest-ever interagency effort to fight gun crime.
Project Safe Nashville brings together the U.S. Attorney’s office; the Mayor’s Office; the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD); the Nashville-Davidson County District Attorney’s office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The effort includes the creation of a specialized unit at MNPD; better coordination among agencies when tracking guns used in crimes; state and federal support for these efforts; and a more seamless and aggressive approach to investigating and prosecuting those who commit gun-related crimes.
The “Crime Gun Unit” of MNPD consists of six detectives and one sergeant, all current members of MNPD who have significant experience fighting gun crime and using the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN). The unit will use NIBIN to track shell casings from weapons fired in local crimes and connect those weapons to other crimes in the area, more quickly finding patterns to investigate. 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.
“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.”
“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.”
MNPD’s Crime Gun Unit uses existing personnel and is budget-neutral. Overtime for the detectives is being supported by a $319,000 Department of Justice Safe Neighborhoods grant.
“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.
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.
“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 Crime 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 initiative and partnerships are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.
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