Strickland calls increasing city crime rate ‘unacceptable’
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland is calling the city’s crime rate “unacceptable” after a new report shows violent crimes and property crimes increasing by 10 percent since a year ago.
The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission released a report Friday showing major violent crime — murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults — jumped 9.9 percent in Memphis and 9.3 percent in Shelby County in the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period a year ago.
Major property crimes — a category that includes burglaries and thefts — are up 10.6 percent in the city and 9.4 percent countywide in the first quarter of 2016. That’s mostly driven by a 30 percent increase in vehicle thefts, the report noted.
Domestic violence incidents increased 8.4 percent in the city and 5.7 percent countywide.
The murder rate, however, decreased by 12.2 percent in Memphis following last year’s record 228 homicides.
Strickland, who was elected in 2015 after a campaign that focused largely on lowering the city’s crime rate, released a response to the report touting his administration efforts, including new hiring and retention efforts for the Memphis Police Department.
“Today’s news only further illustrates why I’ve made long-term crime reduction such a priority since my first day as your mayor,” he said.
The city is recruiting for new police officers in Birmingham, Little Rock and Jackson, Miss. and is currently training its largest class of police recruits in seven years with a goal to recruit 100 more officers by Aug. 28. A recent $6.1 million grant is expected to help with recruiting and retention.
MPD’s ranks are down to 1,915, the city says, a decrease from 2,452 officers in November 2011.
Strickland also said the city has expanded library hours and community center offerings and will continue to recruit businesses to expand economic opportunity in the city, among other efforts.
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said that reducing crime is his department’s No. 1 priority.
Rallings specifically tied the double-digit increase in vehicle thefts to drivers leaving their keys in their cars, a trend WREG reported this week.
“When occupants leave their keys or key fobs in their vehicles, that invites theft,” he said in a statement. “We must work together to reduce the number of auto thefts. Drivers, please lock your doors and take your keys with you.”