Memphis hits 161 homicides so far this year, mayor says the count is more than statistic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city's homicide count is not just a statistic. His message comes on a day when Memphis matched last year's total number of homicides.

There's still three and a half months to go this year.

The most recent killing happened in Frayser Wednesday night when a man was shot in the head.

The incident brings the count for the year so far to a staggering 161 homicides. At this pace, the city is in the position of potentially breaking a record set in 1993 of 213 murders.

Strickland flat out said he doesn't know why the numbers are so high this year. He said frankly no one seems to. However, the shattering statistic is shattering lives.

"Kenneth was not just another body lying in the street," said Celita White.

Celita White and Felicia Robinson described their friend and classmate 52-year-old Kenneth Griffin.

"He was a guy that always wanted to see a smile on someone's face," they said.

On Thursday, Memphis Police identified him as the victim of the city's 158th homicide this year. He was shot and killed in South Memphis on South Wellington. Police haven't released a motive and said his killer is still on the run.

"Nonsense, I don't understand it," said Robinson.

Mayor Strickland told WREG he doesn't either as he held a book filled with each homicide victim's name and picture. It's clear no community is immune to crime.

The map showed a handful of murders WREG tracked over the last few weeks; the areas include Frayser, South Memphis, Whitehaven and Northeast Memphis.

"Homicides are the hardest to predict which makes them the hardest to deter," explained Strickland.

Over the last few months, WREG has pressed Strickland and the police department about what they're doing to curb crime.

"What we're saying is we're doing everything, but I'm trying to be realistic to say a significant drop may take time to realize," he explained.

However, for the families of these murder victims, time is up. It's too late. That's why Griffin's friends said we all have to take responsibility.

"If a child don't have a parent then it starts with a grandparent. The television, whoever, it starts with everybody," said Robinson.

The mayor and police director have been trying to drive home the last few months the importance of nurturing children.

Strickland acknowledged there are a lot of great programs in the city to help children, but they need to be expanded.

He also said the city is working tirelessly to recruit more officers.