Downtown, once one of the safest zip codes in Memphis, sees increase in crime

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One of the safest zip codes in Memphis is seeing an increase in crime, while the Shelby County Crime Commission says crime rates are down overall.

Numbers from the city's data hub show crime in downtown's 38103 zip code have jumped by 51% over the last three years. There were 2,053 incidents reported in the area in 2017. That number jumped to 3,118 incidents in 2019.

According to the data hub, the biggest crimes were assaults, thefts and property crimes.

"We do have an increase in activity, especially theft of motor vehicles," Colonel Gloria Bullock with the Memphis Police Department said.

Bullock said that is the driving crime for the downtown area.

Police acknowledge the increase in downtown crime, especially in the entertainment district. They said changing boundaries and more apartments have tripled the population downtown over the last few years.

The police department noted the police officer shortage is making their job more challenging.

"We are putting everything we can down there," Bullock said. "We address it by putting additional patrols or details whenever we need to when we seen an influx of crime."

Police said programs like a Beale Street admission fee and real-time crime cameras are working.

Long-time downtown residents like Robert Bain said they need more cameras and cops to deter the criminals.

"There is an absence of police riding around the area," Bain said.

Bain said a burglar robbed a vehicle right outside of his building in the middle of the night. Surveillance video captured the suspect breaking the window of the SUV on the side of the street.

"He literally leaped inside the vehicle, and when he was done, he came out the same way — feet first," Bain said. "At one time, I would not have considered this a crime area. It has become one."

The Memphis Police Department said there are about 2,000 cameras in the downtown area, including Sky Cop cameras and cameras on businesses and residences.

According to police, the cameras put up by citizens are helping them make significant arrests. Last year, the police department added eight more real-time crime cameras downtown.

The Memphis Data Hub shows crime over all increased by 5% in the 38104 (Midtown) area over the last three years.

Crime has dropped by 15% in the 38111 zip code in East Memphis.

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