KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Office of Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen has released a report detailing an increase in homicides and drug overdoses last year.
Last year was “challenging in many ways,” Allen said in a letter prefacing the 2021 Year in Review for Knox County crime and trial case data.
“Unfortunately, we saw a dramatic increase in homicides and drug overdose deaths, while dealing with the impact of COVID-19,” Allen stated in her letter. “Fortunately, as a result of the continuous effort throughout my term in office to build well-trained, robust units to address violent and drug-related crime, we were prepared to begin trying cases as soon as the Tennessee Supreme Court allowed us to re-open for trials in mid-April. Out of the 58 trials in 2021, my Major Crimes and Career Criminal/Gang Units pushed 29 cases to trial, including 15 homicide and 5 attempted homicide cases.”
Trials had resumed in Knox County courts in April 2021. According to some case data shared in the new report this week, Knox County General Sessions Courts saw 37,438 new charges brought and 35,627 charges adjudicated. Knox County Criminal Courts saw 6,195 opened counts; 6,303 counts adjudicated and 58 trials.
The 58 trials in 2021 included 15 homicide and attempted homicide cases. Fifty percent of trials were brought by the office’s Major Crimes and Career Criminal/Gang Units, which prosecute the community’s most violent offenses. Knox County grand jury cases resulted in 464 indictments and 191 presentments.
The DA’s Office is organized into specialized prosecution units, such as the Career Criminal/Gang unit, the Child Abuse unit, Criminal Courts unit, Domestic Violence unit, DUI unit, Elder Abuse unit, Felony Drug unit, Felony Sessions unit, Major Crimes unit, Mental Health unit, White Collar unit; as well as a Juvenile court and collaborations with law enforcement and community organizations.
The Child Abuse Unit reviewed more than 1,900 reports of child abuse in Knox County in 2021, resulting in convictions of 80 individuals. The Domestic Violent Unit assisted more than 2,000 victims of domestic violence in 2021, according to the report. Cases handled by the White Collar Unit resulted in more than $1.6 million total restitution ordered for financial crimes in 2021.
The DA’s Office reported 498 people died of suspected drug overdoses in 2021, a 20% increase compared to 2020 when 413 people died of suspected overdoses. A total of 293 overdose deaths were reported in 2019.
Last year, the Overdose Fatality Review Team was created as part of the All4Knox strategic plan to combat the opioid and drug overdose and misuse epidemic, review overdose deaths and identify prevention and intervention strategies in the community.
“We continue to collaborate with state and federal agencies and commit manpower and resources to identify and remove dangerous, habitual criminals from our neighborhoods,” Allen stated in her letter. “These collaborations range from creating violent crime reduction strategies to prosecuting drug dealers whose drugs are driving the loss of life through overdose deaths.”
The 2021 Year in Review report can be viewed on the DA’s Office website.