Violent crime and the summer ahead

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Blue lights, ambulances and crime scene tape. It's become an all too familiar sight and it's only April.

Police beefed up patrols downtown after gunfire in Tom Lee Park and nearby at Beale and Wagner. But is there any way of knowing whether a rash of assaults and drive-by shootings across the city and county means it's going to be a long summer crime wise?

"There's no science to whether or not crime goes up in the summertime or the wintertime. I think there are a lot of people who have theories about that," said Harold Collins with the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission.

The commission compiles data on what it terms "part one" crimes, which includes crimes like murder, assault, domestic violence and car thefts, into monthly reports.

In May 2016, the numbers were 3,314 "part one" crimes.

In June, 3,074.

A month later there were 3,400.

Collins said there's no way to predict exact numbers of crimes, where they will occur, who will commit them or who will fall victim.

But Dr. Angela Madden with the Public Safety Institute said there are some reasons crime does escalate during the summer.

"People are not in their homes, they are out so that makes them better targets. They're out, so there is an opportunity for them to be victimized. And also if they are leaving their homes unguarded, then their homes are going to be victimized as well."

Dr. Madden and her co-workers compile data for the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission and other law enforcement agencies. Their work allows them to see where they can better use their resources.

She added that it doesn't take a fortune teller or a genie in a bottle to create safe neighborhoods.

"The community has to get involved. This is not just a law enforcement issue. It's not just a governmental issue. It's a community-wide problem and we can't expect the police to resolve it and we can't expect the mayors to resolve it."

According to Mayor Jim Strickland, stats for the first three months of 2017 show murders down 26 percent and major violent crimes up 0.2 percent compared to this time last year.

The mayor has long stressed the importance of youth programs like the Porter Goodwill Boys and Girls Club on South Lauderdale.

As many as 190 youngsters spend productive time there everyday, finding positive direction and support to keep them from becoming another crime statistic.