Report: Murders down but crime up in Memphis and Shelby County last year

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fewer murders were committed in Memphis and Shelby County last year, but overall crime was up in 2017, researchers say.

The preliminary numbers come from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and were released Monday in a report by the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.

The good news is that the murder rate dropped 15.6 percent in the county, and 10 percent in the city, after a record-breaking year for homicides in 2016. The report uses statistics that show 218 murders were committed in Shelby County in 2016. That dropped to 185 in 2017.

However, the overall crime rate ticked up by about 6 percent in Memphis and Shelby County, especially major violent crimes. Aggravated assaults jumped by 9.3 percent.

"The drop in murders is encouraging. The overall level of violence remains unacceptable," said Bill Gibbons, president of the Crime Commission and executive director of the Public Safety Institute.

The increases don't surprise Lydia Crivens.

"I'm a native Memphian. It's unfortunate," Crivens said.

She's cautious all the time - especially if her 7-year-old daughter is with her.

"When we're going to the store, we go right in," she said.

Shelby County's District Attorney expects more law enforcement officers to be added this year, along with an expansion of the multi-agency gang unit.

But Crivens believes that's not enough.

"People are robbing because they can't get jobs. It's such a cycle that we need to address, " Crivens said.

Josh Spickler is a criminal justice system reform advocate.

He says more low level offenders should be required to do time. But their record should be cleared so it doesn't impact their future.

"The best thing we can do to stop crime is get people working," Spickler said.

James Hurst agrees with the concept but takes it a step further.

"The role models are gang banger's in this town," he said. "We need police, but we need somebody to raise the children right. We need role models for all these poor kids."

Gibbons said parts of the Operation: Safe Community strategy are set to be employed this year, including deployment of law enforcement "in a data-driven manner," expansion of the Multi-agency Gang Unit and violence intervention efforts that other cities have used successfully.

The report is below.