MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis and the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission released new statistics Tuesday that they called “disturbing.”
Major property crimes, including burglaries and vehicle and property thefts, shot up 43% in Memphis and 42% in Shelby County in the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period a year earlier.
That was driven by a 155% increase in vehicle thefts, the commission said. Overall major property crimes were up 72% since hitting a low point in 2016.
Stats for other crimes did not look much better.
Violent crimes overall were up 7.7% in Memphis and 5.4% countywide. Reports of rapes were up 41%.
Memphis Police report 81 murders in the first three months of 2023, after ruling some cases as negligent or justifiable homicides. In the same period in 2022, that number was 60.
Major violent crime is up 60% in Memphis and 52% in Shelby County since hitting a low in 2011, the commission said.
More than 70% of violent crimes now involve guns, compared to 40% in 2011. Juveniles, sometimes under the supervision of adults, are driving the increase in vehicle thefts and break-ins, said Bill Gibbons, president of the crime commission.
“There is growing concern over the level of brazenness of much of our juvenile crime,” said Ben Adams, chairman of the board of the crime commission.
He said the public wants reform now from the juvenile justice system.
Police Chief C.J. Davis told Memphis City Council on Tuesday that MPD hoped to begin enforcing a curfew for juveniles, using the Greenlaw Community Center in Uptown as a recreation center to hold them until their parents could pick them up.
“It would be a safe space for them. It’s not a detention center or anything like that,” she said.
Davis says keeping juveniles off the street at night is especially important for suppressing crime near the downtown area.
“We have a lot of cars broken into and we end up detaining some of our young folks,” Davis said. “And the message is for parents, after 11, 12 o’clock at night, hopefully, you know where your children are.”