Tennessee murders, rapes, kidnappings fall but vehicle, identity theft rise, according to TBI report

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / A proclamation honoring Crime Victims Rights Week is seen during a ceremony April 28 at the Family Justice Center in Chattanooga.

NASHVILLE — Murders in Tennessee dropped 14.55% in 2022, while reported cases of rape and kidnapping respectively fell 10.6% and 11.98% from 2021, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's latest annual "Crime in Tennessee" report.

However, not all categories of crime are dropping, according to the report, which is based on annual crime statistics submitted by all state and local law enforcement agencies to the TBI.

Crime rates in some areas are rising. For example, motor vehicle thefts rose 26.91% from 2021 to 2022. Reports of identity theft grew 25.55%. And the TBI says the number of victims of crime actually rose last year by 1.08% to 346,362.

The agency collects information on 24 crime categories made up of 54 offenses. The report groups crimes in two categories with serious crimes in group A. That includes offenses such as homicide, arson, assault, kidnapping, rape and other sex offenses as well as larceny, robbery, embezzlement, fraud, animal cruelty, motor vehicle theft, weapons law violations, stolen property and human trafficking.

A group B category includes crimes such as passing bad checks, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, public drunkness, "peeping Toms" and trespassing.

TBI Director David Rausch didn't characterize the findings but lauded TBI's Tennessee Incident-Based Reporting System as superior to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report in his written comments in the state report.

The state "program continues to serve as a model for the nation and remains successful because of the continued cooperation by Tennessee's law enforcement community," Rausch said, going on to thank participating law enforcement agencies. "TBI remains committed to this effort and will continue to provide the training and technical assistance necessary to collect the most accurate and comprehensive crime statistics for Tennessee and its citizens."

According to the TBI, there were 119,215 arrests reported for group A offenses in 2022, a 12.48% decrease from 2021. Juveniles accounted for 7.98% of group A arrests in 2022. The report says 4,143 juveniles were arrested across the state in 2022. That compares to 3,816 juveniles arrested in 2020 and 5,069 in 2021.

Still, the number of juvenile crime victims rose from 24,781 in 2021 to 26,582 in 2022. Just a fraction of offenses — 2.23% — were reported as occurring in elementary and secondary schools. Most occurred at residences.

Overall, group B offenses remain fairly flat, rising from 136,605 in 2021 to 136,970 in 2022.

"It looks like it's trending in the right direction," said Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, a member of the House Criminal Justice Committee, by phone Tuesday. "I'd just say it was encouraging to me overall."

Howell pointed to the drops in reported murders, rapes and kidnappings.

"What I would like to hope is that this a reflection of some of the tough-on-crime bills we've passed in the past two or three years," Howell said.

Republicans have pressed the legislation, with Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally's successful effort in 2022 to pass a truth-in-sentencing law targeting a number of violent crimes, in some instances requiring people to serve entire 50-year sentences. Howell said he sees that as having a deterrent effect

Sexton is from Crossville. McNally is from Oak Ridge.

The law applies to eight felonies and prohibits inmates from using credits they earn for good behavior and participation in prison programming to reduce their sentences. The credits can still be applied toward obtaining privileges and being housed in less restrictive settings.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who was involved as a volunteer in faith-based initiatives to help felons turn their lives around, refused to sign the bill but allowed it to become law without his signature.

Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-285-9480.