KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New data from the Knoxville Police Department has community leaders angry and frustrated.
“I'm outraged. I'm totally outraged it is unacceptable. And something has to be done,” said J.D. Jackson, a leader at Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development. The organization is otherwise known as SEEED.
He compared the streets of Knoxville to action-packed movie scenes curated in Hollywood.
“There are no rules. It's like the wild, wild west. Anything goes,” said Jackson.
City and community leaders are pushing to stop gun violence, which they called the number one issue facing the community.
New data from KPD shows that, on average, around two teens are arrested for gun-related offenses every month. The data comes with a caveat; officials said that the numbers don’t fully represent the problem — teen shootings.
Police said that the data was more of an estimate of the minimum number of juveniles suspected of being involved in shooting incidents from January 2020 until February 2021.
Jackson says the data did not surprise him, as tensions rise in communities across the city.
“Public safety is at an all-time low. They don't feel safe to go out, don't feel safe to do anything, in their own communities," said Jackson.
For Jackson, the problem has hit closer to home than for most others. His brother died due to gun violence.
“He was murdered," Jackson said. "That's final, you don't get to see that person again.”
He said that giving teens something to engage with and focus on could help reduce gun violence on Knoxville's streets. His organization, SEEED, is trying to exactly that.
“What we do at SEEED is workforce development," he said. "We have a saying, 'don’t nothing stop a bullet like a job.'"
He said programs are aimed at the right kids, attracting ones at risk for gun violence. It also puts boots on the ground, trying to meet youth where they are.
“You have to go where they're at," he said. "You can't expect them to come to you. And once you realize that, you go with it and you form relationships with these young people."
Because of the way KPD compiles its reports, it is difficult to give an exact number of teens arrested for gun violence. However, they emphasized that these numbers represent the minimum number of teens arrested for gun-related charges.