Knoxville to cut back contract with Cities United after surge in gun violence

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The city is scaling back its agreement with a national nonprofit, after a string of deadly shootings. The nonprofit, Cities United, works with mayors across the country to tackle gun violence in their communities.

Knoxville leaders say they signed a contract with the nonprofit in June, but on Thursday WATE 6 News learned they’re now revamping it. Erin Gill, chief policy officer with the city says, they’re wanting to move at a faster pace.

“I think we hoped we would be moving into an implementation stage by now, and I think we’re feeling that frustration that we want to move from talking about it, thinking about it to moving those action steps forward,” she said.

It’s the same complaint from top city leaders as well.

“The pace of the work is not going as fast as I’d like. Working to hasten efforts to get tangible change to the community faster,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said on Monday.

The criticism toward Cities United and their pace is changing the agreement between the nonprofit and the city.

“We are currently under a four-tier package with them in terms of coaching and capacity building,” Gill said. “That amount we took to the council earlier this year was $75,000. We will be looking to reduce that again to a more tailored and focused scope that relates to work we want to jump-start.”

Gill also says that it was premature to give a dollar amount to that reduction, and the city will be sending the amendment to Cities United before the end of the week.

One thing is certain, city and community leaders feel the urgency to see a change in a hurting community. Shootings in 2021 have now led to the death of six teens who went to the same high school.

Lakenya Middlebrook, executive director of the city’s Police Advisory & Review Committee has few ideas she’d like to see implemented.

“Things like group violence intervention, which is really focused deterrence, (and) street outreach,” Middlebrook said. “Folks are excited and engaged in getting into the community and being boots on the ground and talking to folks most likely to be engaged in violence.”

The city also approved the new position of violence interruption coordinator in its July budget. This will be a top leadership position. The city says it plans to announce who will fill the role around the end of the month.

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