TBI: Crime in schools drops nearly 60%

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released new data Thursday detailing the volume and nature of crime on school campuses, both in elementary and secondary schools.

The data does not include college or university campuses.

Among the findings of ‘School Crime 2020’:

  • From 2018 to 2020, 24,403 crimes were reported by the state’s law enforcement agencies with a location code of ‘School-Elementary/Secondary.’
  • From March to December of 2019 there were more than 8,000 incidents reported in Tennessee schools, in 2020 there were just over 2,000.
  • The overall number of reported offenses decreased 59%, from 2018 to 2020, largely attributable to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on reported school crimes in 2020.
  • Simple Assault was the most frequently reported offense, at 35.%, followed by drug/narcotic use at 13.5%.

“That’s a massive fall in crime in that short amount of time, in a two-year period,” Mt. Juliet High School School Resource Officer Eric Gray said.

Gray says the Wilson County School District, too, saw a dip in school-related crime.

“Obviously anytime you see a reduction in crime on its face, it’s a good thing, but when you look deep, I think there are several factors that played into it,” Gray said, adding COVID-19 is a major factor. “When you don’t have the chance for that major interaction, it limits things that can happen, especially in a school building.”

Gray says in the 2018-2019 school year there were 224 arrests, 2019-2020 there were 2020 arrests and for the 2020-2021 school year, so far, there’s only been 11 arrests.

Despite the drop in school-related incidents, Gray says crime didn’t magically go away and is possibly even increasing outside of school property.

“When the kids are out of course you’re going to see an uptick in crime because they have nothing to do they’re stuck at home,” he said.

As Wilson County Schools and the rest of Tennessee gets back to what school normally looks and feels like, Grey says he’s seeing changes.

“We’ve seen a small uptick in discipline here and issues but what we’ve noticed is they appear to be much better mentally,” Gray said.

Gray hopes the crime data continues dropping, adding the key here is to keep kids busy and get them involved in extracurricular activities.

The TBI’s Statistical Analysis Center has been maintaining a watchful eye on the reported crime rates, since the start of the pandemic, and continues to do so.

Find the latest crime reports on WKRN.com’s Crime Tracker

The TBI, with the assistance of the Department of Education, established a toll-free School Violence Hotline for the receipt of information relating to potential violent acts. The School Violence Hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-824-3463.

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