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TBI Report Shows 12 Percent Decrease in School Crimes

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; May 9, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its annual study dedicated to crime in Tennessee’s schools. Produced by TBI’s Crime Statistics Unit, the study spans a three-year period between 2010 and 2012 and is based on crime data submitted by Tennessee law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS).

The reported number of crimes that occurred at schools decreased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 with 12,477 offenses reported in 2011 to 10,980 offenses reported in 2012. Examination of 2010 through 2012 data revealed a 16.5 percent drop in crime reported at schools over a three year period. This report is based on incidents submitted by law enforcement agencies and excludes offenses reported by colleges and universities. Those statistics are compiled in TBI’s “Crime on Campus” report that was released earlier this year.

“School Crimes Report” Quick Facts

  • Simple assault was the most frequently reported crime at 3,956 or 36 percent of offenses.
  • Of the 3,930 weapons reported at schools, 82 were firearms.
  • Crimes against persons made up the largest majority, nearly 50 percent, of reported school crimes.
  • More crimes occurred on Thursday than any other day of the week and the month of February had the highest frequency of school crime.
  • 47% of the time, the relationship between the offender and victim was acquaintance.
  • Marijuana greatly outnumbered all other seized drugs at school in 2012 accounting for nearly 75 percent of drug seizures.

It is important to understand the characteristics surrounding school crime and its offenders and victims. This understanding will help schools, policy makers, law enforcement and the public learn how to better combat crime that occurs at these institutions. To view the “School Crimes Report” for 2011 in its entirety, click here.

TBI: Crimes at Schools Down 5.5% In Last Year

Press Release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; May 9, 2012:

Study Shows Crime Decreased from Previous Year

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its annual study dedicated to crime in Tennessee’s schools. Produced by TBI’s Crime Statistics Unit, the study spans a three-year period between 2009 and 2011 and is based on numbers submitted by Tennessee law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS). The state’s first ever school crimes study was released in May of 2009.

The reported number of crimes that occurred at schools decreased by 5.5% from 2010 to 2011 and there was an overall decrease of 6.7% between 2009 and 2011. There were 12,435 crimes reported at schools in 2011 compared to 13,155 in 2010. This report is based on incidents submitted by law enforcement agencies and excludes offenses reported by colleges and universities. Those statistics are compiled in TBI’s “Crime on Campus” report that was released earlier this year.

“School Crimes Report” Quick Facts

  • 2.2% of all crimes reported in the state occurred at a school.
  • Simple assault was the most frequently reported crime at 4,593 offenses.
  • Crimes against persons decreased by 4.3% and crimes against property decreased by 8.2%.
  • More crimes occurred on Friday than any other day of the week and most resulted in no injury to the victim.
  • 47% of the time, the relationship between the offender and victim was acquaintance.
  • The most reported arrestee gender was male at 73%.

It is important to understand the characteristics surrounding school crime and its offenders and victims. This understanding will help schools, policy makers, law enforcement and the public learn how to better combat crime that occurs at these institutions. To view the “School Crimes Report” for 2011 in its entirety, go to the TBI website at www.tbi.tn.gov. Click on “Crime Statistics” from the homepage, then click on the “Statistical Analysis Center” fly-out. The study is listed under “Specialized Reports” on the Statistical Analysis Center webpage.

Senate: No Judicial Diversion for Public Servants

Legislators say they want to make sure their own kind get more than a slap on the wrist if they’re caught breaking the law and abusing the public trust.

The legislation comes almost a year after Richard Baumgartner, a former criminal court judge in Knoxville, pleaded guilty to official misconduct for illegally using prescription painkillers he acquired from drug offenders who’d appeared in his court. Baumgartner was granted diversion, which allowed him to avoid serving jail time.

“I think that people who hold public office ought to be held to a higher standard,” said Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, who is sponsoring the bill.

Yager told TNReport the Baumgartner scandal “was certainly one of several” involving East Tennessee public officials that prompted him to sponsor the legislation — although he declined to get specific.

“That’s not to say that 99 percent of the state and local officials in this state aren’t hardworking, conscientious and honest, but it’s that less than one percent who commit malfeasance in their office give everybody else a bad name,” Yager said.

The measure would add to the list of crimes not eligible for diversion “any offense committed by any elected or appointed person in the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the state or any political division of the state, which offense was committed in the person’s official capacity or involved the duties of the person’s office.”

Even though nobody voted against the bill, not everybody was for it. Three senators abstained from voting on SB2566: Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, and Joe Haynes, D-Nashville.

“If you’re going to take off diversion for that crime, we need to consider a lot of other crimes,” Haynes told reporters after speaking out against the bill on the Senate floor. “Not that people who do that shouldn’t be punished. Sure they should. But diversion shouldn’t be removed for that crime any more than it should be removed… for embezzlers or any other serious crime.”

Baumgartner pleaded guilty to one felony count of official misconduct and was granted two years of parole instead of a prison sentence for the conviction. Defense lawyers in numerous cases over which Baumgartner presided either have or are considering asking for retrials because Judge Baumgartner was likely impaired on the bench during court proceedings.

If he avoids further brushes with the law, Baumgartner’s record will be wiped clean after two years due to the current diversion law.

In Tennessee, diversion is applicable in certain cases involving a first-time offender. The second chance is granted in cases where the defendant has never been granted pretrial or judicial diversion, has not been convicted for a felony, or a Class A or B misdemeanor. Diversion is available if the crime at hand is not a Class A or B felony, DUI,  misdemeanor sex offense or conspiracy, attempt, or solicitation of certain sex offenses.

The companion House measure, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, has yet to move in a House Judiciary subcommittee this year, but is scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

Mark Engler contributed to this report.

TDOC Releases Repeat-Offender Study

State of Tennessee Press Release, June 15, 2010

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Correction has discovered some encouraging news in its latest study on recidivism. The just released report shows that felons released from TDOC prisons are now less likely to return to custody.

The return rate for ex-felons dropped 3% in the latest survey. For 2005, the recidivism rate stood at 38.8% for offenders who had been out of prison for three years. That’s compared to a 42% rate in 2001. While there is no recognized national average for recidivism, return rates range as high as 65% for individual states.

For Tennessee taxpayers, a 3% drop in return means an annual savings of $3,933,502.80 based on the $64.92 daily rate to house an inmate.

Even better news is that the TDOC is maintaining extremely low return rates for felons convicted of violent crimes such as murder, rape and assault. Three years after their release, these offenders were only 25% likely to return to prison compared to the nearly 44% return rate for those convicted of property offenses.

“While any return of such serious offenders is undesirable, the consistent ability of the TDOC to achieve these low return rates is noteworthy,” said Commissioner Gayle Ray. “The lower recidivism rates show that rehabilitation efforts which include evidence-based programming are working and must continue.”

Legislature Says Criminals Must Pay Full Restitution for Voting-Rights Restoration

A proposed law to require that felons pay all their fines and court costs before getting their voting rights restored is headed to the governor’s desk.

The measure breezed through the Senate Wednesday, a stark contrast to the gale-force debate that howled up in the House last week.

The bill, SB 440/HB 09690, was sponsored by Rep. Joe McCord and Sen. Doug Overbey, both Maryville Republicans.

In the House, McCord and the bill were accused of aiming to disenfranchise voters who traditionally lean Democrat, and for placing a higher political premium on revenue collections than civil rights and “equal justice.”

“I agree that we should have restitution, but what I don’t agree with is when your income or lack thereof causes inequity in our system, and that’s exactly what this does,” said Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis. “This is not equal justice. We are talking about people who have paid their debt (through incarceration), and now we are going to make a decision based on their ability to vote on how much money they have.”

Added Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, “Basically we’re saying if you’ve got the money, and you can pay, you can have your rights restored, but if you don’t have the money…you cannot.”

Rep. Mike Stewart, a Nashville Democrat, wondered if the bill was part of “an overall Republican Party effort to disenfranchise people,” citing similar bills being offered in Washington and other states.

Supporters of the measure countered that critics seemed more concerned with getting ex-cons in ballot booths than with ensuring that criminals are made to repay their victims and reimburse taxpayers for the full costs of their misdeeds.

The issues in the bill have “nothing to do with whether you’re rich or poor,” said McCord. He likened it to a bill passed a few years ago that requires a person to be caught up on child support.

“It’s (about) a convicted felon and failure to pay court costs,” he said.

State and Local Government Committee chairman Curry Todd was among those who expressed agitation with the arguments put forward by opponents of the bill.

“Why don’t we let the cops give out a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card to everybody who makes under a certain income?” asked the Collierville Republican. “Do we not have any sympathy for the victims out there? We’re one of the top states in the nation in violent crimes. Why should (felons’ rights) be restored? I’m tired of everybody being so damn sympathetic to the criminals.”

House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol later added that as a result of felons not paying fines and court costs, “The victims and the taxpayers are paying those court costs, so the victims are being victimized twice.”

After nearly 50 minutes of debate that included members of both sides of the aisle being ruled “out of order,” House Speaker Kent Williams asked the members to wrap up the debate.

“I don’t what more can be said about this,” he said.

It passed on a vote of 69-23.

The bill had passed the House May 17 on a vote of 72-18, but McCord had to bring it up for another vote last week because the original bill as passed incorrectly gave the Board of Probation and Parole the ability to declare a person indigent rather than the courts.

The Senate unanimously agreed to the amendment on Wednesday.

First Lady Conte Participates In Crime Victims’ Rights Week Event

Press Release from the State of Tennessee; April 20, 2010:

Event Remembers Those In Davidson County Touched By Violent Crime

NASHVILLE – Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte today participated in a Crime Victims’ Rights Week event to remember individuals in Davidson County that have been touched by violent crime. National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, co-sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Victims of Crime, is April 18-24, 2010. The theme of this year’s observance is Crime Victims’ Rights: Fairness. Dignity. Respect.

Organizers of the Nashville event include You Have the Power…Know How to Use It, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about crime and justice issues founded by Conte in 1993. Conte, a former victim of violent crime, serves as president of the organization’s board.

“This week of observance give us an opportunity to make sure victims of crime and their families are aware of the resources and support available to them within their community,” said Conte.

Other participants scheduled to participate in the event include Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Edward Yarbrough, Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, and Tennessee Commissioner of Correction Gayle Ray.

Tennessee’s First Lady has worked to serve victims of crime and abuse for more than 17 years. In addition to her role in founding You Have the Power, one of Conte’s initiatives upon becoming First Lady was to help establish a child advocacy center in each of the 31 judicial districts across the state. In 2003, there were 25 Child Advocacy Centers. Today there are 43 centers statewide.

As First Lady, Conte also worked to create a statewide Commission on Crime Victims Assistance that provides recommendations on the administration of the Criminal Injury Compensation Fund. Each December, she and Governor Phil Bredesen host “A Tennessee Season To Remember,” an annual holiday memorial event honoring Tennesseans who have lost their lives to violent crime.

Conte received national recognition as a longtime advocate for victims’ rights when she was presented with the National Crime Victim Service Award in 2008 during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

You Have the Power is dedicated to helping victims and educating the community to prevent violent crime. The group conducts educational programs, creates training videos and produces guidebooks on topics such as domestic violence, elder abuse and child sexual abuse. The videos are distributed nationwide to law enforcement agencies, schools, domestic violence shelters, civic groups and therapists. In addition, You Have the Power conducts numerous public programs across Tennessee.

For more information about You Have the Power, visit www.yhtp.org. For additional information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, visit http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/index.html.

Comptroller: ‘Zero Tolerance’ Offenses In Schools Up This Decade

Press Release from the State Comptroller; April 20, 2010:

But There’s Been Improvement Since 2005, Report Finds

The number of “zero tolerance” offenses committed by Tennessee schoolchildren has increased this decade, although there’s been improvement in at least three of the last five academic years, according to a report released today by the state Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA).

Zero tolerance offenses are those which warrant predetermined disciplinary actions, such as expulsion or assignment to alternative schools. Although individual school districts have added to their lists of zero tolerance offenses, those defined by state law are drug possession/use, firearms possession and battery against school staff members.

In its latest report, OREA compared data from the 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years to that collected since the 1999-2000 school year. Data from the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years will be evaluated in future reports.

Overall, the report indicates that zero tolerance offenses have increased since 1999-2000, although there has been a slight downward trend in the latest three years analyzed.

Drug offenses, which represent about 85 percent of the total zero tolerance cases, have risen significantly since 1999. Despite the recent downturn, the number of drug offenses has grown 45 percent overall since the beginning of the decade, outpacing student population growth.

Firearm offenses have shown a relatively steady decline in the years between 1999 and 2005, although in more recent years the year-to-year change in the statistics has been more erratic.

Battery of school staff members has also increased since 1999. However, the report notes that there is some variation in how different school districts classify those types of offenses.

Among the report’s other findings:

· Ninth graders made up the majority of zero tolerance offenders.

· Boys committed twice as many zero tolerance offenses as girls.

· In 2007-2008, the most recent year evaluated, 40 percent of all zero tolerance offenses were committed in the state’s five largest school districts.

“Our office has also created an online map of zero tolerance offenses to accompany this year’s report,” said Russell Moore, OREA’s assistant director. “The public can access the map through our website and scroll over any Tennessee school district to find out the number of reported zero tolerance offenses for the 2007-08 school year.”

The link to that map is available online at: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/Repository/RE/ZeroToleranceMap_1.htm

The full report, titled “Zero Tolerance: An Update, 2010,” is available online at: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/Repository/RE/ZT2010Report.pdf

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

Odom’s ‘Smart On Crime’ Bill Passes In House

Press Release from Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville; April 8, 2010:

House Passes Bill That More Than Doubles Penalty For Armed Robbery

(Nashville) — Democratic Leader Gary Odom passed a long-overdue measure through the Tennessee House of Representatives Thursday that will more than double the minimum time served for armed robbery.

“This is a big step we made today in making Tennessee a safer place to live,” said Odom (D-Nashville). “We hear from Tennesseans that it is time to get tough on crime. This bill gets tough on crime and it gets smart on crime, with no additional cost to the taxpayer.”

The bill doesn’t cost taxpayers because it is written to require that certain non-violent property offenders serve sentences in very extensive community corrections programs, under which they would pay restitution to their victims. By requiring these persons to serve in these programs, the measure would free up cells for the most violent criminals in society.

The bill passed the House on an 88-4 vote and will now head to the state Senate for consideration.

The bill, inspired by a West Nashville constituent held at gunpoint by a criminal who pleaded guilty to earlier armed robbery charges, will increase the minimum amount of time served from 30 to 74 percent.

“A constituent came to me and said: ‘Gary, this guy pointed a gun at me and robbed me in broad daylight in my yard. I was angry when I learned that he had done it before and should have still been in jail,’” Odom said.

The violent offender in the West Nashville case, under this legislation, would have served six of the eight years sentenced instead of only 2.4 years, Odom said.

Metro Nashville Chief of Police Ronal Serpas, a vocal proponent who was on the House floor to witness the vote, praised the bill as being “smart on crime.”

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, is endorsed by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police and the Tennessee District Attorneys General.

‘Smart On Crime’ Bill Clears House Finance Committee

Press Release from House Democratic Leader Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville; March 30, 2010:

Armed Robbery Penalty More Than Doubled

(Nashville) — House Democratic Leader Gary Odom passed a long-overdue measure through the House Finance Committee Tuesday that will more than double the minimum time served for armed robbers.

“The unanimous vote today by the House Finance Committee ensures that this bill will be funded without additional cost to taxpayers,” said Odom (D-Nashville).

The bill doesn’t cost taxpayers because it is written to require that non-violent felons serve sentences in very extensive community corrections programs, under which they would pay restitution to their victims. By requiring these persons to serve in these programs, the measure would free up cells for the most violent criminals in society.

The bill, inspired by a West Nashville constituent held at gunpoint by a criminal who pleaded guilty to earlier armed robbery charges, will more than double the minimum amount of time served for aggravated robbery.

“A constituent came to me and said: ‘Gary this guy pointed a gun at me and robbed me in broad daylight in my yard. I was angry when I learned that he had done it before and should have still been in jail,’” Odom said.

The violent offender in the West Nashville case, under this legislation, would have served six of the eight years sentenced instead of only 2.4 years, Odom said.

The bill has been endorsed by the chiefs of police in the four major Tennessee cities, in all three grand divisions. Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas says the bill will increase public safety and that it is “smart on crime.”

Odom plans to have the bill on the floor of the House by next week. The bill also moved forward in the Senate Tuesday afternoon, unanimously passing the Judiciary Committee.

Gibbons Tours Youth Villages, Pledges To Reduce Juvenile Crime

Press Release from Bill Gibbons for Governor, March 22, 2010:

Bartlett, TN – Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons continues to make fighting crime a top priority, not only in his job at the D.A.’s office, but also as he gains momentum in his run for governor of Tennessee. General Gibbons today toured Youth Villages in Bartlett, a residential facility that offers mental health treatment for boys and girls.

“Most of the children who live at Youth Villages or participate in the programs are children who have also been part of the juvenile justice system. I wanted to see for myself how these treatment centers operate to better grasp the underlying problems of juvenile crime, and in turn, the best ways to fight it,” Gibbons said. “I was impressed with Youth Villages facilities and the staffs’ dedication to these troubled children,” he added.

While overall crime in many communities, including Shelby County, has gone down in recent years, juvenile crime remains a growing problem.

“Many of these children spend their whole lives shuffled through the juvenile justice system, rather than being in school and leading productive lives. As D.A., I’ve already cracked down on parents whose children are perpetually truant and helped match troubled children with caring mentors, but I think we have a long way to go. As governor, I want to move forward with new programs and ideas, instead of tying up kids in bureaucratic red tape,” Gibbons said.

Bill Gibbons, a Republican, is the Shelby County District Attorney General, serving as the top state law enforcement official in Tennessee’s largest jurisdiction. He entered the governor’s race on January 4, 2009. For more information on Bill Gibbons, visit his campaign website at www.Gibbons2010.com.