Tennessee’s violent crime rate ranks as one of the highest in the nation. Fortunately, Governor Bill Lee is taking action, in part by releasing $100 million for violent crime intervention.
“As Americans face rising crime nationwide, Tennessee is equipping law enforcement with the tools needed to keep every community safe,” said Lee. The Violent Crime Intervention Fund (VCIF) initiative launched in October 2022 to support local law enforcement agencies’ work to reduce violent crime and strengthen public safety. The UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC) was fortunate to be able to assist in this endeavor.
Agencies could apply through the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs (TNOCJP) for two types of grant funding, formula and collaborative. The formula funding was allocated to each eligible law enforcement agency in the state with the amount being determined by several factors including the agency’s violent crime statistics. Amounts ranged from $20,000 for small agencies to $3 million for larger agencies. The collaborative grant was competitive in nature and required two or more law enforcement agencies to enter into a partnership to address violent crime in their area with an award of up to $2 million. Of the 54 collaborative applications, 40 were recently awarded for fiscal years 2024 and 2025.
Agencies utilized the grant money to purchase items such as drones, ballistic vests, body-worn cameras, and crime scene equipment. Other agencies used the funding to create new positions, providing them with additional resources such as a criminal intelligence analyst or a new investigator position. Many agencies chose to purchase upgraded radio systems, improving emergency communications across the state. The funding also allowed several agencies to send people to LEIC’s National Forensic Academy to attend the nationally recognized 10-week crime scene program. The collaborative grants included more ambitious projects such as real-time intelligence centers, allowing multiple agencies to share information and a digital forensic center in upper East Tennessee.
The LEIC was given the opportunity to partner with TNOCJP to provide training and technical assistance over the three-year period of the grant. The pre-grant assistance that LEIC provided consisted primarily of technical assistance to law enforcement agencies applying for the grant. Between October 2022 and January 2023, a team of grant writers and consultants provided assistance that ranged from answering questions to writing complete grants for agencies. In all, LEIC staff members had contact with approximately 194 law enforcement agencies and wrote 28 formula grants accounting for almost $2.5 million as well as five collaborative grants for over $2 million in awards. Additionally, the team assisted on 120 formula grants and 27 collaborative grants for over $61 million in grant awards to local law enforcement agencies.
Post-awards, the team has been working with TNOCJP to get some of the grants ready for executed contracts and providing technical assistance to agencies in the form of model policies and best practices for their newly acquired equipment. Additionally, LEIC will be providing free training on various violent crime topics including crime scene operations, active shooter, and criminal investigations. As part of the program, a new limited-duration training specialist will be joining LEIC in July 2023 to spearhead the violent crime training.
The grant writing team consisted of LEIC Program Manager Rhiannon Jones; Lt. Danielle Lowery, Clinton Police Department; ret. Deputy Chief Brian Johnson, Nashville Police Department; Lauren Allard, Allard Consulting, LLC.; Detective Sergeant Leslie Miller, Clinton Police Department; and Sergeant Thomas Clinton, Knoxville Police Department.