Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mayor and Metro Police reducing the size of the North Precinct police force to increase suburban force?

The neighborhoods of Nashville's North End sit just across the interstate from MNPD's North Precinct. While we are in the Central Precinct, we are often keenly aware of the crime and police response to our north. At a recent Salemtown Neighbors meeting, a police officer compared the boundary between the central and north precinct as the line between crime-prevention neighborhoods like ours holding out increased criminal activities across the interstate.

The North Precinct was built 7 years ago, about the time we moved into Salemtown, to provide better security, more crime prevention for North Nashville neighborhoods. It stands to reason that building that new precinct represented a commitment by the previous Mayor's Office to devote public safety resources more equitably.

So, I do not know what to make of a report just coming from the Belmont-Hillsboro association that the more affluent suburban neighborhoods south of I-440 will be getting a new precinct seemingly at the expense of the North Precinct. Mayor Karl Dean's plan was announced at a crime prevention meeting held at Christ the King Catholic Church Monday night:

Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson made a surprise appearance and gave us the news that the police force will be adding two more precincts in 2012, one of which will cover the area between Hillsboro Road and Nolensville Road and will likely be located on 12th Avenue. This represents the potential for an increased police presence in our area, better coverage through reduced size of current North, Southwest and Hermitage precincts, and supports Mayor Dean’s focus on Nashville citizens’ safety.

I have a difficult time seeing how moving police officers out of North Nashville into the burbs maintains focus on the safety of North Nashville citizens' safety. A February news media report indicated that 2 new police precincts were planned for 2012 without reference to the 12th Av/Granny White Pike area, and it quoted the Dean Administration as saying that the precincts would be staffed by new hires rather than moving existing hires out of other precincts:

Last year, Metro police reached full staffing for the first time in five years, said Janel Lacy, the mayor's spokeswoman.

"It's a testament to the mayor's commitment to public safety, given the economic environment we're in," Lacy said. "You might have heard him say in speeches before that while other cities are laying off police officers due to budget cuts, Nashville is doing just the opposite."

But if officers are moved south from other precincts in 2012, well after this year's mayoral elections, will the police force be fully staffed? Does reducing the size of the North Precinct in 2012 actually amount to doing the opposite of laying off and cutting budgets?

Can anyone who attended that meeting and who might be reading this shed more light on this story?

UPDATE: I received the an e-mail from MNPD Captain Harmon Hunsicker Thursday morning that included the following comment on what was meant by the size of the precinct reductions in 2012:

Several of the comments posted in relation to your posting about reducing the size of the force in North Precinct are accurate. Each time a new precinct is added, the area (geographic) of responsibility for existing precincts are reduced. This allows the precincts to serve smaller areas and have their resources closer to those they serve. The intent of adding more precincts is better and closer delivery of police services. The police department is aggressively hiring and has done so for several years; we need quality people to keep up with attrition and keep our precincts fully staffed.

Both Jay Voorhees and Carol McCullough commented here on Wednesday that the police meant geographical not force size of the affected precincts.


  1. Mike, don't freak too quickly. I wasn't at that meeting by Chief Anderson shared the same presentation at the recent Old Hickory Chamber meeting. The reductions that this person mentioned are in regards to the geographic coverage of the North precinct, with fewer square miles of coverage area once the Madison precinct comes on board. As I understand the proposal, the new precincts do not represent a reduction of the number of officers in the existing precincts, but indeed represent bringing staffing up to full levels with new hires.

    What this means for your precinct is the same number of officers patrolling a smaller space, which should improve response times and allow for greater responsiveness.

  2. I wasn't in attendance, but it is my understanding that the "reduced size" is referring to the COVERAGE AREA, not the number of officers. In other words, North and other precincts that are shrinking will be receiving better service because the police do not have to cover such a large area.

    Discussions that I have had with police indicate a strategy to move toward smaller precincts in the neighborhoods close to downtown that have higher crime rates (similar to the East Precinct now--it is much smaller than most but is still a fully-staffed precinct).

    Not only does a smaller coverage area make it more feasible to improve service in areas most impacted by crime, but it also makes it more likely that residents can develop a relationship with their precinct to aid in crime prevention (again, I would point to the East Precinct as an example). If that is indeed the plan, I think it makes sense.

  3. I live in the Belmont area. I feel very safe in the neighborhood and I will note that there is a a solid Metro Police presence here. I will also note that council person Megan Barry lives in this area and that a new sidewalk was recently completed on her street. Now, I'm all for sidewalks, but I know of streets in the area with more pedestrian traffic than her street. Say, the section of Kirkwood between Belmont and 12th S. Can certain council members get 'favors' from the mayor's office? Of course. Did any favortism occur in regards to what is reported in the above article? I don't know.

  4. It's great that the police department is working its way to full staff, however, the current staffing level is about the same as in 1980 and since then look at how much this city has grown.