Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Police Chief John Drake unveiled a new strategy on Monday to address the rise in murders and gun crimes in Davidson County.

The Metro Nashville Police Department will launch the Office of Alternative Policing Strategies The new agency will partner with nonprofit groups and other community stakeholders as the latest initiative aimed at curbing violent crime.

Drake also detailed an increased policing presence during the nighttime and early morning hours when most violent crimes occur.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in reducing overall crime, the numbers of murders and violent gun crimes increased in cities across the country. Drake pointed to cities such as Seattle, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and Portland, which are experiencing  the number of murder cases go up year over year.

The number of homicides in Nashville rose from 84 people in 2019 to 109 in 2020, an increase Drake called “absolutely unacceptable.”

To address the problem, Drake has repurposed officers with the goal of engaging disenfranchised groups and building closer relationships with neighborhoods. After being hired by Cooper for the full-time top cop job last year, Drake launched the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships, which he said on Monday has already worked to connect with the Hispanic, Kurdish and African American communities. Drake also created community engagement officers within each police precinct to connect with neighborhood leaders and identify crime-fighting priorities on a hyper local level.

Inspector David Imhoff, Metro Nashville Police Department (Photo: Nashville.gov)
Inspector David Imhoff, Metro Nashville Police Department (Photo: Nashville.gov)

Drake’s latest prevention initiative announced at Monday’s press conference is the creation of the Office of Alternative Policing Strategies, which will be led by former East Precinct Commander David Imhoff, who was recently promoted to inspector.

Drake said Imhoff will collaborate with Cooper’s office, Juvenile Court, clergy members, nonprofits, mental health providers and others to identify ways to intervene in the lives of young people and those in vulnerable populations whose minor infractions are possible to become more serious crimes in the future.

In addition to the new prevention measures, Drake said police will work to curb violent crime with a wave of new officers working the overnight shift when most violent crimes take place. A total of 80 officers spread across the nine precincts will begin their new shift at 5:30 p.m. and work until 3:30 a.m., Drake said.

“These officers will provide additional visibility in areas with emerging crime trends through a precision policing model,” Drake said.

To illustrate how the new unit will work, Drake pointed to the shootout between two groups last month at the intersection of Murfreesboro Pike and Millwood Drive. That same intersection was the site of a shooting in September. The Hermitage Precinct would include that area as one of its focal points for its new overnight unit.

The new strategies dovetail with recommendations from the Policing Policy Commission, created by Cooper’s administration to spearhead reforms in the wake of protests of police in Nashville last year.

“I’m grateful to our police officers and to every department, community group and nonprofit working hard to make Nashville safer for everyone,” Cooper said.