Governor-elect Bill Lee had a message for Tennessee on the night he was elected -- one that he said he intends to address.
"Right now, violent crime is taking up in every major city in our state," Lee said. "I believe every neighborhood and every community can be a safe place to live, but we need to give our police officers and our law enforcement the resources they need to protect us and at the same time we need to bring people together.”
When looking at the entire state as a whole, violent crime is up. In 2017, there were 100 additional violent crimes in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga compared to years prior. In Knoxville, the increase was smaller.
The latest statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Incident-Based Reporting System show violent crime has been on the rise in every major city in Tennessee -- with statewide crime statistics continuing a slight upward trend that began in 2014.
In particular, TBI Director David Rausch said the bureau has seen a notable rise in aggravated assaults across the state when it comes to the overall increase in violent crime.
However, Rausch said it's important to look at the numbers specifically city-by-city as isolated metrics rather than trying to compare them or rank them -- saying it's generally unfair because interpretation of each statistic is left up to local authorities.
Chris Jones, a trainer at the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center in Oak Ridge, said he's on a mission to change the way law enforcement addresses domestic violence cases specifically --saying he thinks it could help address the rising violent crime in Tennessee.
Jones said it's all about breaking the cycle of violence.
"Most of your violent crime offenders have a domestic violence past," he said. "Whether they’ve witnessed it as a child or they have been convicted of domestic violence prior to them committing a violent crime."
When it came to domestic violence, Tennessee as a whole saw the number of cases decrease by 1.8 percent between 2016 and 2017 according to the TBI.
However, Jones said local policing agencies don't focus on tracking domestic violence statistics as diligently as they should.
"They’ll run burglary statistics, or robberies, or vehicle thefts and they’ll put all of that information into a stat report and send that out and say these areas are getting hit and we need to saturate the area a little bit more. All too often domestic violence isn’t even considered," he said.
Instead, he has spent the past four years advocating a different approach.
"We are going to focus on reducing domestic violence by holding offenders accountable. And by holding them accountable and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law, they in turn reduced their violent crime," he said.
If law enforcement agencies take a robust approach to dealing with domestic violence perpetrators, the theory goes, they are less likely to continue the pattern of violence and crime.
"The biggest thing about that is it takes the burden of prosecution off of the victim. Local and state agencies will take over where typically we need the victim," he said. "We have to get away from the mindset that if the victim doesn’t show we can’t prosecute and we’ll just dismiss the case."
He hopes this new approach will change the trend of rising violent crime across Tennessee, and hopefully work to help reduce crime across the country.
"If we could interrupt one generation of violence than all this effort and all this work would have been worthwhile," he said.