Nashville, Tennessee

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

Nashville, Tennessee

BCJI Funding Year: FY2020

BCJI Awardee: Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority

Research Partner: Tennessee State University; Vanderbilt University

Focus Area: Napier Place and Sudekam Neighborhoods - Population 3,421

Challenges: Community Safety

Neighborhood Characteristics

The Napier Place and Sudekum neighborhoods in Nashville, Tennessee, have several positive assets, such as engaged, long-term residents, a public library and recreation center, mentoring and workforce development programs, local parks, churches, K-12 schools, a federally qualified health clinic, a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Envision Center, reliable bus lines, and proximity to the interstate highways and downtown Nashville. HUD recently invested a Choice Neighborhoods Planning grant award to support an equity-driven, mixed-income, mixed-use community of opportunity. Additionally, Census tract 148 is located in a federal Promise Zone and Opportunity Zone to help incentivize economic development. However, this community has a long history of economic challenges.

In 1931, the relocation of Meharry Medical College and sale of the original Metro General Hospital, which had dominated the economic activity in the community, led to the relocation of prominent doctors and healthcare workers. In the void, the construction of Napier Place in 1941 was restricted to rental housing for low-income White residents, and the construction of the adjacent Sudekum Apartments in 1953, was restricted to rental housing for low-income Black residents. These developments dramatically changed the neighborhood, segregated residents, and disrupted the character and street grid of the former integrated single-family home community. The construction of Interstate 40, which forms the north and east boundaries of the neighborhood, further eroded connectivity to the rest of the city and created both physical and psychological barriers to Downtown Nashville.

In 2019, the median annual household income in the Napier and Sudekum neighborhood neighborhood was less than $7,000. The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), the local public housing authority, provides subsidized housing in this community. Resident demographics in Napier and Suekum are 93 percent and 95 percent Black, respectively. Additionally, both neighborhoods house populations that are 65 percent female. Youth under the age of 18 make up 49 percent of the residents in Napier and 60 percent of the residents in Sudekum.

In comparing county and national rates of violent crime offenses to residents within census tract 148, there are 13 times more violent crimes in these neighborhoods than the rest of Nashville and the national rate. While these neighborhoods represent only 0.5 percent of Nashville’s population, they represent nearly 6 percent of its violent crimes, and there is a violent crime for roughly every 5 residents. 

The MDHA has installed 240 security cameras to supplement law enforcement surveillance. The surveillance cameras have assisted the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) in several prosecutions in both state and federal courts. The MDHA supports overtime pay for MNPD officers to engage residents and build trust. Officers share that they enjoy this opportunity and are eager to sign up for the voluntarily shifts. Officers credit these opportunities for the beginnings of resident cooperation in crime solving.

A local church hosts monthly community safety meetings with officers and residents. In a recent meeting just after a shooting in the neighborhood, MNPD officers shared data on crime improvements but the news fell on deaf ears. Participants included one dozen mothers with young children who were scared and angry after waking up from a near sleepless school night to shell casings on their front porches, blown-out widows, and damage to their vehicles. While total Uniform Crime Reporting Part I violent crimes have decreased overall by 19 percent in these neighborhoods between 2016 and 2019, violent crime, specifically gun violence, remains extensive.

Planning Phase

The project vision builds upon existing neighborhood assets to create a cohesive, connected, safe, and diverse community of choice, as well as improve residents' quality of life. The Planning Phase of MDHA's Community Safet Program builds on intensive planning and community engagement work to develop Envision Napier and Sudekum, a comprehensive community revitalization plan developed using a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning grant. That effort included significant community discussions on ways to improve community safety, which are the foundation on which this project is based.

MDHA’s Community Safety Program will focus its first year on planning and research activities through the implementation of participatory action research (PAR) methods led by the BCJI program coordinator and in collaboration with academic co-researchers.

Other Key Partners

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, District U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nashville Juvenile Court, Councilman Freddie O’Connell, Napier Resident Association, Sudekum Resident Association, Church of the Messiah, Lafayette Avenue Merchant Association, Neighborhood Health, Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, Metro Office of Family Safety, Two Rivers Middle School

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues. 

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