Tennessee Crime Data and Map

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A recent article at Addicting Info pointed out that according to FBI released data Tennessee had the highest per capita violent crime rate of any state in 2012. Being a native Volunteer, I was not only shocked to learn this but also skeptical.

2012 Top Ten Violent Crime Rates

In a previous post, I pulled the data from the FBI and confirmed those numbers, and then did some initial analysis on where those crimes were occurring. However, that hasn’t been enough to get the idea of Tennessee being the most violent state in the country off my mind.

TN Crime

At first glance, it appears Memphis is the main culprit in driving up the state’s crime rate. While certainly it is the most significant contributor, the question becomes, “can solving the violent crime problem in Memphis take care of Tennessee’s problem?” In order to address this, I performed a sensitivity analysis on the data for Memphis, and found it would be necessary to reduce the crime rate there by 20 percent before Tennessee’s would equal that of the 2nd place overall, Nevada. A 20 percent reduction hardly seems viable; therefore, it doesn’t appear all of the blame can be placed on Memphis.

Memphis Crime

Next, one notices that Nashville too has a significant amount of crime as the second largest contributor for the state and the second largest metro district. Therefore, this could also be a good place for reductions. Again, I ran sensitivity analysis, but in this case, combined the reductions for both Memphis and Nashville. Under this scenario, Tennessee would start to approach Nevada (and out of first place) with an approximate 10 percent reduction of the crime rates in these two cities. Also, a seemingly challenging scenario.

Memphis and Nashville Crime

Lastly, given the results of the first two cases, it seems difficult to say that Nashville and Memphis should be responsible for changing Tennessee’s status in this ranking, so I performed a final sensitivity analysis for the whole state. It suggested that the state’s overall violent crime rate would need to come down approximately 5.5 percent to get it out of the top spot.

Tennessee Crime Sensitivity

I am not a social scientist and am only looking at these statistics for sport; it is an exercise in geo-spatial and data analysis. I don’t know how feasible it is for these numbers to change year to year. However, in making comparisons of Tennessee’s data between 2010 and 2012, it does appear that there is a fair amount of variability, so perhaps not all hope is lost. For example between 2010 and 2012, the number of murders in Nashville and Memphis changed by 49 or 7.6 percent of the 2012 rate. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that those numbers can go both ways, up and down. A bad year, especially with a few terrible incidences like the quadruple homicide that occurred in Cumberland County earlier this year, could drive Tennessee well out of everyone else’s reach.

All of this only raises more questions. What about Tennessee leads to such high violent crime rates? Other Appalachian states with comparable drug-use, poverty, and demographic metrics are not ranked as high. Why is Tennessee different? The sensitivity analysis would suggest it cannot be blamed on one or two cities. Can Tennessee get this under control? The first step is always admitting the problem. Maybe it’s time for me and Tennessee to admit it has violent crime problem and start the conversation of how to address it.

Below you will find an interactive map showing all the counties of Tennessee with their 2012 Census population data and TBI crime statistics. These numbers will not line up exactly with the FBI data because it includes crimes other than those specifically defined as ‘violent crime’. Additionally, the data sets were organized by city from the FBI and county from the TBI. But overall the numbers were fairly level further confirming their validity.


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About Stuart Hale

Stuart is a forest and natural resource professional focused on ecosystem services, GIS/data management, and sustainable forestry. Find him on Twitter.

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