All this week on 10News at 6 p.m., a 10News Investigation looks at reported crime around each of Knox County's public schools, the impact those crimes can have and the trends and solutions that are underway.
Our public schools are among the most important places in our communities.
After all, that's where we entrust our children for most of the first 18 years of their lives - their formative years, their precious years.
But do you always know what's going on around your child's elementary, middle or high school? Are you aware of the reported crimes that go on within a school's neighborhood? Just what happens within a short distance of the old school house?
That's the question 10Investigates wanted to explore in this week's five-day series: Report Card on Crime.
We start Monday night on WBIR newscasts with a look at violent crime. We'll follow that with stories on elementary schools; middle and high schools; the economic impact such crimes can have; and we'll conclude on Friday with a look at trends and solutions.
Using data reported by the Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff's Office - compiled and available through the Lexis/Nexis Community Crime Map - we've put together a look at serious reported crimes that occurred beginning in 2012 and continuing through early 2017.
The searchable database represents more than five years of information - enough to give you a sense of what goes on around any given neighborhood. Some of it won't surprise you; some of it will, however.
You'll also find a map showing the locations of the county system's various schools here.
What's to be gained?
We think the project is worthwhile on several fronts.
Obviously, we view this as a tool for parents and other residents curious about what goes on around the 80 or so public schools in the Knox County system.
It can also help those who are pondering a move in the district. They can decide for themselves what the data means as they go about making the big decision of picking a school for their child.
We hope our reporting also enlightens the public about the differences in crime patterns across the area.
Finally, 10Investigates wants to make the public aware of the programs already available to help improve our neighborhoods. Many groups and agencies are working right now to help make children and the neighborhoods in which they live safer, cleaner, more modern and more cohesive.
We hope the reporting and the database itself creates an awareness of the programs that are out there right now to address crime and starts a discussion about some of the solutions now being tried that could lead to a reduction in reported crime.
We want to make clear that Report Card on Crime found no evidence of significant crime at all within school walls themselves. Educators acknowledge most schools have occasional fights or disturbances. But as educators and police stressed - and the data supported - very little crime actually occurs within Knox County Schools.
Little crime has happened in recent decades on Knox County school grounds, and following the December 2012 Connecticut school attack, administrators have taken even more steps to improve security to make each school safer. It's an ongoing effort.
Why did we choose the half-mile radius as a means of measurement? We think it incorporates a close enough perimeter to give users a real feel for what's happening relatively close to each school. Half a mile is within easy walking distance.
It's also easily within the "parental responsibility zone" that parents are obliged to follow to ensure their children get to school without the aid of a bus.
Things to keep in mind
Some points to keep in mind as we present Report Card on Crime:
*The data refers to "reported" crime - the initial report of an incident. Often, after police or deputies arrive, the nature of the report can change. For example, the database does not reflect reports that lead to arrests and it doesn't reflect any convictions that might result from a crime.
*We mapped all schools except vocational and technical schools or non-traditional education centers. Our focus was on schools that educate the bulk of Knox County's 58,000 public school students.
*We focused on serious crimes such as homicide, rape, other kinds of sexual assault, aggravated assaults, robberies and thefts. Other kinds of crime including DUIs and public intoxication are not included.
*It's not unusual for crime to occur at night, long after school is out and often when children are at home with their families. High crime numbers obviously show some areas have more reported incidents than others. But that doesn't mean it's happening during the hours while your children is at that school. Some might be; some is not.
*Reported crime can be attributed to a number of factors including population density, income level, proximity to commercial areas. As police noted, for example, if you live near a housing development with hundreds of people, chances are there's more reported crime there than if you live on a farm in a rural part of the county.
*If you live outside Knox County, it's possible reported crimes data from your local police agency is available. You can check out the Lexis/Nexis map here.
Compare schools with this database HERE.