NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Traffic and vehicle stops have hit a record low, according to Metro police data; however, the city has seen a sudden surge within the first month of the new year.

For years, local advocates have been monitoring the use of traffic stops, and whether or not they are used based on racial profiling. The concern has long since been at the top of mind for the nonprofit, Gideon’s Army.

“When I think about increased police stops in Nashville, with MNPD, I think about caution,” described Timothy Hughes, with Gideon’s Army. “People are saying that they want to feel safe in their neighborhood. They want to feel safe in their communities and I don’t know that an increase in police stops actually gets us closer to that level of trust and connection with the community that we’re really looking for.”

A look at the latest data produced by Metro police shows a 60% increase in almost every precinct throughout the Metro area. The majority of the stops were recorded as moving traffic violations. The data also revealed the majority of stops were classified as being “white” when it came to race.

“Often, people in the community feel that increased interaction with law enforcement, likely increase[s] the likelihood of police-involved shooting and killings. So, in order to make sure that members of the community are feeling safe, we want to reduce the likelihood of those unnecessary interactions,” explained Hughes.

Back in 2016, Gideon’s Army conducted a research study, called “Driving While Black.” The study found that between 2011 and 2015, Metro police “conducted 7.7 times more traffic stops annually than the US national average,” and during that same time period, “MNPD made more stops of black people than there were black people 16 years old and over living in Davidson County.”

On Tuesday, Metro police gave News 2 insight into traffic stops. Year by year, the number of vehicle stops and arrests has decreased. In 2022, the department saw the lowest number.

(Data numbers provided by MNPD, “Drivers arrested are not included in Drivers Cited, Drivers Warned are counted if no arrest/citation was made/issued.”)

“I think Nashville has been trending in the right direction as far as not using traffic stops as a primary way to fight crime. The department has realized over many years that, that’s not an effective way to bring down crime numbers, it’s not an effective way to build relationships, and my hope would be that they’re not backsliding,” said Farhang Heydari, Legal Director of the Policing Project.

The Policing Project works to promote public safety while holding police departments. The organization is working to end traffic stops for minor violations but starting with legislation.

“This can’t be a decision that just comes from the police department,” said Heydari. “So, if a city council or a state legislature passes a law the police are obligated to follow it, and so, we are seeing lots of cities that are making a change that way.”

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News 2 reached out to MNPD to ask about the sudden increase at the beginning of 2023, we were told the exact reason is hard to pinpoint, but there have been no new policy changes within the department when it comes to traffic stops. The department has used initiatives, such as the Street Racer Initiative and the Aggressive Driving Unit, to crack down on dangerous drivers.