Karl Dean, the new Nashville mayor who made curbing juvenile crime a central plank of his campaign (see my earlier post here), seems to be following through on his pledge to make that issue a top priority. He held an informal lunch on Monday with police chief Ronal Serpas, district attorney Torry Johnson, public defender Ross Alderman and juvenile court Judge Betty Adams Green to discuss crime and public safety issues and begin to lay out an agenda.
According to this local news report, Serpas shares Dean’s “strong belief that education and ensuring that children are in school during school hours are essential components in the reduction of juvenile crime.” The mayor’s office issued no statement following the meeting, but Serpas’s sentiment is the kind you’d expect to hear from Dean, as well. As a candidate he stressed the need to pair police work with “bridge-building” neighborhood watch initiatives and after-school programming; his campaign’s motto was “It’s all connected.”
Unfortunately, the priority in the short term may be arrests, not education or after-school programming. Nashville is likely to see a sharp crackdown on juvenile offenders before any of these longer-term initiatives get off the ground. This is understandable though nevertheless lamentable: the city has seen a 100 percent rise in juvenile crime in the past year, and 30 percent of city residents charged with murder and armed robbery this year have been underage. Not surprisingly, the number of juveniles who have been tried as adults has also spiked.