KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas and her team take every homicide case personally — especially those with younger victims.
"Everybody's got a mama," Thomas said. "I'm a parent. If something happened to one of my kids, it's devastating. I don't care where I live, where I'm from, or what I do."
In 2021, KPD confirmed 41 homicides within city limits. In 40 of those, Thomas said a gun was involved.
Half the victims were under 30 years old. Nearly a quarter were still teenagers.
"That's horrendous," Thomas said. "We've got to tap into some way to prevent those crimes from happening and prevent our young people from being killed and prevent our future from being taken away from us."
Early indications show there were fewer calls for shots fired in the final quarter of 2021. That's a good sign, according to KPD.
"We did see a trend downward and we're continuing that," she said. "We are hopeful into 2022."
To combat the rising violence, KPD added four investigators to its Violent Crimes Unit.
"That's huge because the caseload there is tremendous," Thomas said. "We switch years, but those cases don't go away. They stay with those investigators."
She said they're seeing success with the Community Engagement Response Team (CERT) and technology too.
"One thing we noticed was they were in stolen vehicles. So we're able now to detect the stolen vehicle faster and able to make those stops," she said. "That's how we're getting those illegal guns off the street, those drugs off the street."
In her final months as chief, Thomas hopes the violence will continue to decline.
"We know what we need to look at — what we need to go after is how are people getting guns illegally?" she said. "We hope we're tracking in the right way with all of our initiatives."