MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State Sen. Brent Taylor is appealing to Tennessee’s governor to help Memphis fight a recent wave of brazen crimes that have left “law-abiding citizens in terror.”
Taylor, a Republican who represents east Shelby County and parts of East Memphis, sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday requesting state aid, including more Tennessee Highway Patrol officers, for Memphis.
“My city is under siege,” Taylor wrote.
He went on to list several high-profile incidents, including this Sunday’s shooting death of St. Jude researcher Dr. Alexander Bulakhov during a robbery, smash-and-grab store thefts, the coordinated looting of a FedEx truck, and local interstates being shut down while drivers spin out their vehicles and passengers brandish weapons.
“There are people who live in Memphis, and I hear from them all the time, they’re looking to sell their homes and move to another community they think is safer,” Taylor said in a follow-up interview Thursday.
Taylor says the situation is so dire that many constituents are asking for the governor to call the National Guard to Memphis, though he says that would be an ineffective solution. The city is too large geographically and Guard members are not trained in law enforcement, he said.
“I am not calling for a police state,” he said.
Instead, he is asking for increased, unannounced THP patrols on interstates and state routes, the creation of a monitoring team to make crime and arrest data public, and the governor’s support of “Republican efforts in the General Assembly to hold our local prosecutors, judicial system, and criminals accountable.”
“Memphis needs help to save it from future ruin,” Taylor wrote. “The State of Tennessee cannot be successful if its most famous city is not successful.”
Taylor is awaiting a response from the governor, but he says he has also shared his letter with both Mayor Jim Strickland and Mayor-elect Paul Young in hopes of sending what he calls a consistent message to criminals.
“When there is a consistent message when you violate the law and you are prosecuted and you’re convicted and serve jail time, then this activity is going to stop,” he said.
The number of homicides and murders in Memphis is up sharply in 2023 over the previous year. As of Oct. 9, MPD reported 302 homicides (254 murders) compared to 221 homicides (185 murders) at the same time a year before.
The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission said between January and June 2023, theft from vehicles was up 130.3% in Memphis compared to the same time in 2022.
District Attorney Steve Mulroy said this week that bringing in the National Guard — an idea floated by many residents lately — would be at the request of the governor and he hasn’t heard anything in the works.
When asked this week whether the governor should call the National Guard to Memphis, Police Chief C.J. Davis dismissed the idea.
“That’s not the answer,” she said. “I don’t care if we had the entire army in Memphis. If we continue to see the same individuals, arresting our way out of this is not possible.”