NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This August, Nashvillians will head to the polls to vote in the Metropolitan General Election.

Earlier this year, Mayor John Cooper announced he would not be seeking re-election, creating a wide-open field of candidates in the race to be the 10th mayor of Metro Nashville.

News 2 submitted questionnaires to each of the candidates running for Nashville mayor. The form featured six questions addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues. In a two-part question, candidates were asked about the city’s crime trends and the rise in violent crimes committed by juveniles.

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Below you will find the answers candidates submitted for the question: What would be your approach to addressing crime in the city and the increasing rate of violent crimes committed by juveniles? (Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.)

Natisha Brooks

“Areas like Bordeaux and Antioch have been wanting more after-school programs for their young adults. Would like to have the Metro Government fund/ create a relationship with non-profit organizations that teach/instruct entrepreneurship/ community gardens with our young adults to stimulate their minds and keep them occupied until they arrive home. Would like to see police officers team with schools weekly with young adults to create relationships of safety and security. Finally, would like to submit to the media – “Young Adult” of the week to inspire other teenagers to be “productive and great “producers” with their lives.”

Fran Bush

“If elected, I would take a deep dive into early intervention and prevention. This could include access to mental health, substance abuse treatment, providing job training, educational opportunities and offering mentoring and support programs for at-risk youth. Another plan I will have, to invest more into our non-profit organizations who are experienced in youth restoration. Restorative justice is also an approach of repairing harm and addressing the needs of both victims and offenders. This can be more effective promoting accountability and rehabilitation. Finally, addressing the root causes of crime requires addressing economic inequality and creating opportunities for all residents to succeed, especially for our children and young adults.”

Heidi Campbell

“Tennessee has one of the worst gun violence problems in the nation, and it’s getting worse. Both 2020 and 2021 saw homicides spike. Law enforcement links the rise in homicides to the dramatic increase in gun thefts from vehicles irresponsibly left unlocked. On March 27th of this year, America’s gun violence crisis infiltrated an elementary school in our city. Just five years ago, the same type of senseless gun violence occurred at a Waffle House in Antioch. In the last three years, there have been 1,158 shootings reported in Nashville. At this moment in our history, gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death of American kids, more than car wrecks and drug overdoses. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, especially our children. I believe our focus should be on violence prevention and intervention strategies, in partnership with community stakeholders and advocates.”

Bernie Cox

“This is not as difficult as it may seem. Enforce existing laws and take politics out of the equation to Support Law Enforcement.

Our first responders and law enforcement are key to safety and preservation of Nashville tourism and residents. They need to be supported and believe that our city and administration have their back while they have ours. It’s about building motivation and security within the departments themselves and not allowing politics to reduce their values to protect, for fear of ridicule by government bureaucracy.”

Jim Gingrich

“Regardless of zip code, everybody should feel safe in their community. We need to address crime directly at the cause. That will require a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach that includes giving officers the resources they need, building and scaling community programs, and investing in workforce development programs.

As Mayor, I’ll dedicate a role who will specifically report to me and who will coordinate all these efforts across all departments. After the horrific events that occurred at Covenant School, we must do everything we can to invest in common-sense gun solutions and keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and invest in mental health services.

As Mayor, I’ll take on anybody who puts politics ahead of the safety of our children and families.”

Sharon Hurt

“I will focus on the root causes of crime and give our kids the resources they need to be successful. This all begins with public services – getting money into our schools, our social services, and our recreational centers so kids have a place to go after school rather than the alternative. Studies have shown that doing something as simple as starting school later in the morning reduces crime because it keeps kids off the streets in the afternoons. I plan on investing in common sense policies like that.

We also have to make sure that Nashville is a leader in community policing and that the police have relationships with the people they’re supposed to protect. When I was growing up, the captain of the police lived a block away from me. That’s the type of relationship we need between the police and the neighborhood. Baltimore has successfully piloted a community-based policing program that has cut violent crime in the neighborhood. As Mayor, I will implement a similar program to ensure all our neighborhoods are safe.”

Stephanie Johnson

“There are 35 districts, and 5 are considered to have the highest crime rates. 30 districts get to live in peace while the rest suffer. Community leaders, metro police, and district council members will meet to implement a plan for each of their districts and look to other cities to address how we will all work together as a community to become the big city with the lowest crime rate in the country. Senator Lamar tried to get bill, SB0017, passed through the house, and there are elements in this bill we can start implementing right here on the local level. Extending school hours on Friday nights has proved to prevent gun violence to the point of almost eliminating it among juveniles. In my first 90 days, we will also host a 35 district-wide gun buyback program coupled with education. I will consider seeing if our city can setup a gun buyback website through MNPD. Our gun buyback won’t just be with money, but we will expand the choices between money, school scholarships, gift cards, trips. We will reach out to progressive celebs like Sheryl Crow who showed up to call for the state to do something, put in concert tickets or money. Call on state reps like Bill Beck to offer pro-bono legal services. To get people to put down their guns, it has to be something that will elevate their lives out of the communities or situations that keep them attached to them.”

Freddie O’Connell

“Of all the plans our city has put forward, none have focused on community safety as a citywide issue, and it’s time to have that collaborative discussion. On top of that, as Mayor, I would ensure that our police can focus on crime, and that means a meaningful conversation about how other Metro teams can provide support on things like parking enforcement, party buses, and noise complaints from short-term rentals. It also means ensuring that mental health crises are treated as such. Our officers also need a new training facility and competitive pay so they can afford to live in the county that they serve and be a part of our community.

To reduce crime committed by juveniles, and to keep the crime rate low, we need a holistic approach that addresses both youth and parents, and creates avenues of economic advancement – because crime is often borne out of hopelessness. That means having good quality schools in every neighborhood to provide youth options for the future. It means recognizing that students and families can be well served by programs directly in schools like Community Achieves, which expanded this year but will need continued funding. It means ensuring we have supportive services outside of school that are directed towards youth, including those that drive down and address adverse childhood experiences and teach meaningful skills. And it means amping up the availability of paid internships and jobs to provide a pathway to success through enhancements to existing youth opportunity programs. It also means helping parents to parent—whether it’s helping them afford housing, giving them a better bus route so they can get home from work faster, or addressing childcare issues that prevent parents from getting better jobs or advancing their education to help their family.”

Alice Rolli

“The current rates of crime by juveniles is a direct extension of our failure to teach children how to read. Without reading, children cannot succeed in school – and they cannot gain the maximum wage jobs coming to our city.

For many decades teaching practices were in use that did not effectively teach children to read. Now state law requires districts to use a “Science of Reading” or phonics to ensure effective literacy instruction is used. This approach is showing results and we have several publicly funded schools within the city that are showing strong results. Sadly, we have 19 schools (18 traditional, one charter) within the city that are in the bottom 5% of the state. 11 of these schools have been designated as such since 2015. Greater urgency is required.

Currently only one quarter of our kids read on grade level – and children who cannot read by third grade struggle for the remainder of their academic careers. So first and foremost, we must hold ourselves accountable to delivering on this fundamental civil right – reading.

Second, with more than 200 vacancies in our police force we must look at both pay as well as morale and how we are treating our officers and supporting them as professionals to ensure we have enough officers to maintain public safety. While I have never worn the uniform, my husband is a combat veteran who served our country for 20 years. Those who wear the uniform and swear to serve and protect our citizens – whether it is in our armed forces, police, fire, or EMS – will have my gratitude, my respect, and my support.

Third, we must invest in programming that helps reduce the number of victims in our city and to reset from a Criminal Justice System to a Victims’ Justice System.”

Vivian Wilhoite

“As Mayor I would work with Chief John Drake to ensure that the police department has the resources that it needs to keep our city safe. I would also work with Juvenile Judge Sheila Calloway and District Attorney Glenn Funk to continue investing in restorative justice programs in our city. We also must empower and support the nonprofit organizations in Nashville, like Group Violence Intervention, that target the population at high risk for violence. I would also conduct outreach and personal interactive sessions with students in the Metro Public Schools to empower students about available resources they can use when they need help and how to deal with conflict. I will engage with existing neighborhood watch groups and encourage the forming of neighborhood watch groups and work with Neighbor 2 Neighbor to promote knowing your neighbors and empowering groups with the resources needed for building stronger community awareness.”

Matt Wiltshire

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, and increasingly Nashville feels less safe than it used to.

If every child in our city was able to attend a truly excellent public school it would open up a world of possibilities and opportunities for young people who might otherwise engage in unproductive activity – like violence. I truly believe Nashville has the opportunity before it to have the best public schools of any city in America.

Prioritizing investments into mental health resources and evidence-based violence interruption programs are going to be critical in order to address violent crime more broadly. We must also address staffing shortages within MNPD and continue to invest in technology in order to make it more likely that if you’re engaged in violence that you will be caught.”

Jeff Yarbro

“Public safety is a fundamental requirement for a successful city. If Nashville gets everything else right but fails to keep people safe, the city’s future will be at risk. Our city should adopt evidence-supported,

data-driven approaches to addressing violent crime. In Nashville as in most every city, violent crime is driven by a narrow group of largely identifiable individuals and concentrated in a subset of geographic locations — not whole neighborhoods but specific streets and blocks. Place-based policing, violence interruption, and non-policing investments and interventions that concentrate on these primary drivers of criminal conduct and violence are proven to work. We need to ensure we’re hiring sufficient police

officers and increasing salaries to avoid staffing shortages and turnover. We must also focus on the training, transparency, and accountability measures essential to build and support community trust. But we can’t focus only on policing. Part of the city’s charge when it comes to safety is responding quickly to streetlights that are out and communities that are neglected and developing conditions that allow crime to arise in the first place.”

To read candidates’ answers to the other questions submitted addressing some of Music City’s biggest issues, click here.

The Metropolitan General Election takes place on August 3. A runoff will be held on September 14, if necessary.