April 26, 2021 10:00am

Knoxville Power Poll: Violence Prevention Strategies

Respondents agree that more should be done to curb violence in the community but aren’t convinced that political leaders will deliver.

Photo of Scott Barker
Knoxville, TN Correspondent
article image

In this month’s Power Poll, respondents show support for local governments devoting more resources to anti-violence and anti-poverty programs but express little confidence in public officials to respond appropriately.


The poll was conducted Monday through Thursday this week, and most responses were in before District Attorney General Charme Allen released video and other evidence in the officer-involved shooting of Austin-East Magnet High School student Anthony Thompson Jr.


The subject of gun violence had already gripped the community, however. A record number of gun-related homicides were reported last year, and Thompson was the fifth Austin-East student to die from gunshot wounds since January.


Seven in 10 respondents agree that the City of Knoxville, Knox County government and Knox County Schools should invest more resources toward violence reduction efforts. Only 12.5 percent said they would not support additional resources.


Respondents did not come to a consensus on naming the top priority for focusing anti-violence efforts. Nearly half, 46.4 percent, said violence intervention efforts should top the priority list. The rest of the respondents split among increased social and emotional support in schools (20.5 percent), stronger gun regulations (17 percent) and a greater police presence (16.1 percent).


A solid majority of 62.2 percent supports greater local investment in anti-poverty programs as a long-term component of violence reduction efforts. One in five, however, oppose more local spending on economically challenged communities and nearly as many aren’t sure if that’s the right policy direction.


The responses indicate support for new efforts to curb violence in the community but divisions exist about how best to address the issue. Similar divisions exist among the public officials responsible for coordinating the work. 


But respondents show little confidence in those leaders to understand the underlying issues driving gun violence and their ability to make the right policy choices to address them. Only 15.2 percent said they were confident in city, county and school leadership, with a majority (53.6 percent) expressing no confidence at all.


This could be an opportune time to funnel more resources into anti-violence efforts. The City of Knoxville has devoted an extra $1 million for violence intervention programs this year, with more expected for next fiscal year when Mayor Indya Kincannon issues her proposed 2021-2022 budget in the coming days.


The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, currently colors every decision about resources. Sales tax revenues this fiscal year have been better than projected, and many economists are predicting a strong year ahead as more people receive vaccinations and restrictions on businesses are lifted.


The federal American Rescue Plan could play a role in funding for anti-violence efforts by freeing up local dollars that would otherwise go toward pandemic response expenditures.


The Power Poll is not a scientific poll but a survey of views and attitudes among community leaders from government, business and nonprofit arenas. This month’s Power Poll surveyed 378 people, with 112 (29.63 percent) responding. Here are the questions and responses:


As the city, county and schools prepare their 2021-22 budgets, should they devote new resources to violence reduction in the community?

Yes: 78 (69.6 percent)

No: 14 (12.5 percent)

Not Sure: 20 (17.9 percent)

What should be the top priority for violence reduction efforts?

Increased police presence: 18 (16.1 percent)

Increased social and emotional support in schools: 23 (20.5 percent)

Increased gun regulations: 19 (17 percent)

Increased violence intervention efforts: 52 (46.4 percent)

Should the city and county create new programs to increase investment and decrease poverty in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods as part of a violence reduction effort?

Yes: 69 (62.2 percent)

No: 23 (20.7 percent)

Not Sure: 19 (17.1 percent)

Do you have confidence that city, county and school leaders understand the problems underlying violence in the community and will react appropriately?

Yes: 17 (15.2 percent)

No: 60 (53.6 percent)

Not Sure: 35 (31.3 percent)

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll