MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Multiple homicides remain unsolved in the same neighborhoods in Memphis, and many wonder if a street code is to blame.
On April 17, 2021, 15-year-old Jarvis Triplett was gunned down on his ATV near Mississippi Boulevard and South Parkway.
“I don’t know why someone would want to do this to my child,” his mother told WREG right after it happened.
Still, a year later, his mother has no answers.
Despite the shooting happening on a well-traveled road, on a clear, Saturday evening, information is limited.
A Crime Stoppers bulletin says they know the bullets came from a white sedan, but police need help identifying the people inside.
Until that happens, it’s one more crime that remains unsolved.
“Boom, boom, boom, boom,” a mother describes the sound she heard across town.
She was too scared to show her face, but told WREG she woke up to drive-by shootings three times in one week on her Northeast Memphis block in February.
It left a man injured and multiple shell casings in the street.
Stray bullets shattered her car window, went through her house and into her children’s bedroom.
“The [third time] as we are hearing the gun fire, we can also hear the sound of our glass breaking,” she described. “We run out of our room not knowing if our kids are hit or not. Because like I said, we hear the glass breaking. We jump on them and onto the floor. Luckily, they weren’t hit.”
She thinks people know who is responsible but choose to remain silent.
“If somebody knows something, it’s just disappointing that they wouldn’t care enough about a child’s life to say anything,” she said.
She and others across the city believe that’s one reason why violent crime continues to happen.
It took WREG investigators months to uncover homicide data from 2017 through 2021 from the Memphis police department.
We learned while more than 700 homicides have been solved, as of February about 500 have not. Many of the unsolved cases are in the same neighborhoods just blocks from each other.
When we zoom into this area that includes Orange Mound, Bethel Grove and other neighborhoods. You can see multiple unsolved homicides within two miles.
Zoom in on the map below and click markers for details on solved and unsolved homicides since 2017.
‘Snitches get stitches’
“We’ve got to do better by one another,” activist Keith Leachman said. “They got this thing about snitches get stitches and a lot of people, you know, if you see something say something.”
Leachman has been urging people to speak out against the violence in Orange Mound where he believes a street code exists that encourages people to not cooperate with police. It may be due to fear of retaliation or not trusting law enforcement.
Ricky Floyd believes that code also exists in Frayser where he’s a pastor.
“We’ve got to get rid of this no-snitch policy,” Floyd said.
Three homicides last year near his church on North Watkins remain unsolved.
“We have unfortunately formed a culture in too many inner cities where we are protecting the criminal now,” he said.
Even in the most callous crimes, like the murder of a toddler.
Laylah Washington was fatally shot in a car on a busy road in Hickory Hill. Detectives made pleas for the public to come forward with information time and time again.
“You would think that a two-year-old innocent child with her entire life ahead of her, someone would be so outraged that the phones would be blowing up. Especially through CrimeStoppers and that simply hasn’t been the case,” MPD Major Darren Goods said in 2017.
It took two years for investigators to finally get the tip they needed to make an arrest. Two. Years.
WREG Investigators asked Memphis police what needs to be done to get people to speak up.
“I think we just got to have better interaction with police and citizens. The trust factor is a big issue. We know that,” Memphis Police Major Webb Kirkdoffer said.
He said there are many reasons crimes remains unsolved.
“Time of day, whether there’s cameras, how many witnesses you did have, what they saw,” Kirkdoffer said.
But he believes those pockets of unsolved homicides on the map are a mere coincidence.
“I’m not sure there is a street code that exists that would prevent good citizens from coming forward and providing us information on any type of crime,” he said. “I think the good, law-abiding citizens in this city are not going by any code. I think if they have information, they are calling and providing it to us.”
Memphis Police adopted methods like CrimeStoppers to allow the public to report information.
A good start according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
It notes nationwide there’s a “mixture of factors” that keep communities silent like “racial disparities,” “failures of the criminal justice system” that allow dangerous criminals to “continue to walk the street,” and lack of police protection if the perpetrator gets out.
We don’t know what tips, if any, have been provided to police in Tripplett’s murder or in the drive-by shootings on this mother’s block. Police say both investigations remain ongoing.