Metro’s new Crime Gun Unit will work to curb gun violence in Nashville using forensics and stronger prosecution methods. It’s part of a ramped-up, multi-agency effort to tackle illegal guns and crime called “Project Safe Nashville.”
The announcement was made Thursday morning by the Metro Nashville Police Department, U.S. Attorney’s office and Mayor David Briley.
The Crime Gun Unit is comprised of six detectives and one sergeant who were moved from Metro’s Gang units.
“The gang issues overlapped with the gun issues so we’re not really losing any resources,” said Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson. “Those detectives are well versed in what needs to be done to accomplish this task.”
The unit will collect shell casings left at crime scenes and analyze their markings.
Each gun produces unique markings on a bullet casing when it’s fired. The marks can then be used to connect to the gun and people who have used it. The unit will use the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) to do this.
For example, in early 2016 Metro Police seized a gun from a convicted felon in Nashville. It was test fired and the shell casing was analyzed. Investigators determined the weapon was involved in three other shootings.
John Hendricks was charged and is now serving four years in federal prison.
“We are chasing the guns that the evidence tells us are involved in shootings,” said U.S. Attorney Don Cochran. “We intend to stop whoever is behind that gun.”
The effort will also look to end, or at least curb, youth violence.
“We’re having more and more shootings especially with young people,” said Chief Anderson. “We’re seeing the age go down. We’ve got 12-year-olds with guns in their hands and that’s something we didn’t see.”
Last month, four teens from Nashville were arrested after a standoff with Mt. Juliet Police that placed a neighborhood on lockdown. The youngest suspect was only fifteen.
“Unfortunately, we see way too many young people involved in gun crime in Nashville and not just as the perpetrators of gun violence but as the victims of it,” said Mayor David Briley.
The first murder victim of 2019 was 18-year-old Daniela Madena. Her 17-year-old boyfriend was arrested.
Chief Anderson also said that keeping illegal guns off Nashville streets will keep people in other counties safe.
“Across county lines, we will assist other agencies as those guns travel across the county lines,” he said. “Crime here in Nashville, crime in other counties.”
U.S. Attorney Don Cochran said his office has stepped up prosecution of armed and violent offenders.
“We are coming after you with this new task force, with all the resources we have on this stage, with all these agencies, and we will take back our city and the streets for all citizens,” he said.
Overtime for the detectives is being supported by a $319,000 Department of Justice Safe Neighborhoods grant.
Project Safe Nashville is also being supported by the ATF, the TBI and FBI.