United States attorney general brings up Memphis in crime speech

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis' crime problem is getting the attention of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions spoke at the Department of Justice Friday morning.

"We're seeing an increase in violent crime in our cities particularly in Baltimore, Chicago, Memphis, and Milwaukee, St. Louis and many others," said Sessions.

The most recent numbers from the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission show violent crime is flat from last year, with a sharp decrease in murders from last year's historic high but still above average.

Last year 228 people in the city were killed.

Robberies are also down while rapes are up significantly, while aggravated robbery is also up slightly.

"Going forward I have empowered our prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious offense as they believe the law requires of the most serious offense readily possible," said Sessions.

In his speech Sessions said the feds need to get tough, saying drugs and crime go hand in hand.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, said she found General Sessions announcement encouraging.

"The first hope is that it serves as a deterrent. That it keeps any knuckle head this weekend that thinks about picking up a gun this weekend and they might be a convicted felon. Put it down," she said firmly.

At the same time Sessions spoke to the Department of Justice, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam talked about crime in Memphis.

Some argue there's a disconnect between lawmakers in Nashville continually loosening gun laws... and the violence plaguing Memphis.

"I would say this, I do think there has to be constant communication between local officials and state officials about what are the impacts, what are the things that really make a difference? Are those changing laws that have caused that to happen? Or are there other factors?" explained Haslam.

While there are lots of factors that lead to crime. WREG asked DA Weirich what can be done to help her office to hopefully make a dent in the problem.

"More staff. And I will have to say Governor Haslam is the first governor in many, many, many years to put additional staffing for DA's offices in the budget," she said.

Weirich said that won't solve all their problems but it's a step in the right direction and she's always grateful for extra funding.

At the city level, Kyle Veazey, Deputy Director of Communications for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's office said,"Public safety is the mayor's No.1 priority, which is why the administration is doing so much to fight crime--like rebuilding MPD and doing more for our youth."

The city recently announced reopening 10 library locations across the city that have previously been closed on Fridays as well as extending library hours. There are also plans to invest more in summer programs and jobs for the youth.