Mar 25, 2024 - News

Nashville safety improvements possible after Riley Strain's death

A candid photo of Riley Strain.

Riley Strain, who died after a visit to Lower Broadway this month. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville Police

Shortly after search teams found college student Riley Strain's body in the Cumberland River last week, Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell told reporters the city is pondering ways to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Why it matters: Nashville's entertainment district represents unique public safety challenges, with large crowds partying in a condensed area pretty much every day of the year.

  • Lower Broadway is an international tourist destination that's grown in popularity and continued adding new honky-tonks in recent years.

What he's saying: "This is the worst kind of closure that I can imagine for anybody," O'Connell said during his weekly media briefing on Friday, adding he talked to Strain's family earlier in the week.

  • "We talked a little bit about the process of being parents and losing a child. I just hope that the city will be, as I think so many Nashvillians have already been, supportive of the family."
  • O'Connell called on people to give the Strain family privacy as it grieves.

Zoom in: Before he became mayor last year, O'Connell represented the downtown area on Metro Council and frequently worked on public safety issues. He's been talking to Nashville's director of nightlife, Benton McDonough, since Strain's disappearance on March 8.

  • "We just initiated more investment in the SAFE Bar program downtown," O'Connell said.
  • "Most of that initiative is focusing particularly on women being safe, but I think we're always exploring ways to make the entertainment district in particular safer."
  • The city is considering installing barriers to prevent pedestrians from accessing the uneven terrain at the edge of the west bank of the Cumberland River, O'Connell said.
  • Metro Councilmember Jacob Kupin tweeted Friday that he's also "actively working on steps to secure the river area" where Strain likely fell.

The bottom line: The city has already taken steps to make downtown safer, O'Connell says. He singled out the opening of a police department substation on Lower Broad.

  • "This is an important reminder to everyone to also look out for one another," he says.
  • "Some of this is just about how we as a city look after each other as neighbors and as people interacting in the entertainment district."
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