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Knoxville leaders continue push for significant change to combat gun violence

Major efforts are in place during a year when more than a dozen people have lost their lives due to gun violence.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — According to the Knoxville Police Department, 17 people died this year because of shootings in the city. They said that 13 people lost their lives in just the first two months of the year. The most recent one was Monday night in East Knoxville.

Cities across the U.S. are also experiencing an uptick in gun violence, which is pushing leaders to make changes. Some are saying that collaboration is key to solving the problem. Knoxville leaders are making significant efforts to stop gun violence and address community concerns, and Mayor Indya Kincannon emphasized collaboration to address the violence. 

Spanish Version: Líderes de Knoxville siguen esfuerzos para cambio significativo para combatir la violencia con armas de fuego

"Keeping people safe isn't one-dimensional," said councilman Janet Testerman. 

Kincannon is also allocating $1 million for new evidence-based strategies. She said that these efforts take evidence-based approaches and are meant to reach people who are most likely to commit violence, as well as victims, in order to interrupt cycles of violence.

In February, KPD launched a violent crime reduction team and formed an enhanced patrol squad to work directly with the community and solve issues. The patrol squad was tasked with not only deterring criminal activity but to walk through neighborhoods and get to know the people in the community.

A KPD spokesperson said over 35 days, that squad found 23 illegal firearms, numerous narcotics and made 94 felony arrests.

"My number one concern is that we still have way too many weapons that are in the streets that are getting in the hands of young people and children," said Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie. 

Because of the outcome, the temporary squad became permanent — the Community Engagement Response Team. They're working daily to address community problems. 

"I've heard great feedback from people saying it was good to see officers walking in the neighborhood and speaking to people, building relationships," said McKenzie. 

"It's putting boots on the ground, creating vigilance, creating support," said Testerman.

Leaders said the efforts are a step in the right direction, but permanent change will take time to see. 

The city is also making investments in poverty and mental health to stop the violence.