KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Some crime trends are down in the Knoxville area, but data is showing an increase in cases involving assault and domestic violence, which state and local leaders call a troubling trend amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most recent reports from the Knoxville Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit, from March 23 – April 19 show the total reported crime has been down 22% compared to the same time period from last year.
(*disclaimer: numbers are unofficial and unaudited but provide context to the overall trend during COVID-19 pandemic*)
The biggest impact being on property crime including vandalisms, car thefts, stolen property offenses and thefts from vehicles.
On the flip-side, the Crime Analysis Unit’s data shows a slight increase in crimes against persons, including aggravated assaults, and simple assaults.
With domestic violence, they have seen an overall increase in aggravated and simple domestic violence in 2020 compared to the previous year, noting “particularly while the Safer at Home Orders have been in effect” including a 5% increase in domestic calls for services in 2020.
Scott Erland, the communications manager for the Knoxville Police Department, says while sheltering in place is important when you’re in the middle of a public health crisis, you will start to see cause-and-effect when it comes to crime and having to stay at home.
David Kitts, the program manager with the Knoxville police department, says they have seen simple assaults up 34%, and aggravated assaults up 68% compared to this time last year with “a lot of people going through some tense times right now.”
Even more alarming, he says he is seeing a lot more violence, seeing more people using weapons against each other than he has in a long time.
Kitts saying the increase could be due to a toxic mix of stress and anxiety, on top of being cooped up together in their homes, and when tensions are high, some people make bad choices.
If you or someone is in an unsafe situation at home, the Family Justice Center is here to serve.
Kitts says they are open and taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe during this time, like wearing gloves and masks, and even providing masks to victims that come in who want or need one.
Advocates can help by “talking about safety planning, making sure they’re “ok” at the house as best as possible and [[we]] can help them find shelter at this time and [[we]] can help them with orders of protection—which are basically restraining orders.”
Family Justice Center is also being proactive by getting information out to the public.
A staff member with the organization said the Center has teamed up with local business who provide delivery or carry-out services to include a “safety cards” that have information and resources for people who are in unsafe situations.
The cards are included in every order to avoid singling anyone out, helping those who may need it, and educating the public.
While this pandemic can cause stress, anxiety and tension, there is no excuse for taking it out on a loved one.
“What we see in these stressful situations, sometimes. the abuser will ‘brainwash’ the victim to believe that they cannot control themselves,” Kitts says, “but the message is: Domestic violence is a choice. Abusers can stop themselves if they want to. It’s not the victim’s fault.”
Domestic Violence resources
- Family justice center family violence helpline: 865-521-6336
- Family crimes unit with the Knoxville police department: 865-215-6810
- National domestic hotline: 800-799-2733 (SAFE)
- Family crisis center: 865-637-8000
- Child abuse and neglect: 877-277-0004
- Elder abuse/adult protective services: 888-277-8366