Mayor says gangs and domestic violence leading cause in homicide rate increase

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- As an unprecedented homicide rate looms over the city of Memphis, Mayor Jim Strickland lays out his concrete plan to address our biggest problems in the new year.

Mayor Strickland talked to WREG today about his struggles and successes during his first year in office. Clearly, he's struggled the most with how to improve public safety in this city.
There have been 222 homicides this year. That's a record number in the city of Memphis and the year isn't over yet. For a mayor who campaigned on making our city safer, it's a big let down.

"Every time I see those statistics come through my email box and I want immediate results and my heart aches for immediate results," said Strickland.

What his heart wants Strickland says his mind knows is not possible. He says it's going to take time to stop the killings. He says most murders in this city stem from two issues.

"Between gangs and domestic violence. Those two causes are the majority of our homicides," said.

The mayor plans to increase the number of police officers to help stem the murder rate going into the new year. He wants more officers assigned to the gang unit and more Blue Crush operations where officers saturate crime hot spots.

"There's nothing the city can do more important than public safety, and the biggest thing we can do with regard to public safety is add more police officers," said Strickland.

Strickland pushed for stricter laws for repeat domestic violence offenders during the last legislative session. This year, he'll ask lawmakers to pass tougher laws for felons with gun crimes.

"I think all of us are on the same page that we need to reduce it and I'm going to lead that effort. It's my responsibility," he said.

Strickland also wants to increase participation by community organizations and groups who want to intervene in the lives of the city's youth. He plans to roll out a plan to do that during a scheduled New Year's Eve Prayer Breakfast. He's invited former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton to speak. Recently, Herenton characterized the city's high murder rate as a "Black problem."

WREG asked Strickland if he agreed. Strickland says he sees it as everybody's problem.


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