Weekly Update


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As our city digests and works to move forward from the events of Wednesday night in Frayser, I want to say a couple of things:

  1. I am proud of our first responders, who showed professionalism and incredible restraint as they responded to the scene of this U.S. Marshals fugitive task force shooting. Chunks of concrete were thrown at them and three dozen MPD and Shelby County Sheriff’s officers were injured. This was unwarranted, unacceptable, and is being investigated.
  2. As with any loss of life in our city, I offer my condolences to the family. I have faith that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will conduct a thorough inquiry and find the facts of exactly what happened.

Updating our public safety work: With all the initiatives we have underway here at City Hall to positively affect every corner of our city and tackle our challenges, it remains important that you know this: The long-term reduction of violent crime is job No. 1 at City Hall ⁠— period.

So as we tend to do in this space every few months, I want to update you on our overall crime reduction strategy. We based it on best practices from cities nationwide, and began implementing it as soon as we took office.

  • Rebuilding MPD. Since we’ve taken office, and in partnership with the City Council, we’ve increased funding for the Memphis Police Department by $21 million. Another class of new officers graduates next week, bringing our total officer count to just shy of 2,100 ⁠— our goal for the end of this year. That’s up from 1,909 in August 2017. With this class, we’ll have hired close to 450 officers since taking office. A fully staffed and resourced MPD is key to our overall efforts ⁠— particularly in strengthening community policing and Blue C.R.U.S.H. ⁠— and you can see by our actions that we’re making progress. (Just this week, in fact, a pair of MPD operations from our Organized Crime Unit netted nearly 200 felony arrests. )
  • Positively affecting more young people. We'll have 90 percent more youth jobs this summer compared to when we took office, and we’ve worked with the private sector to have even more. Youth library programming attendance has nearly tripled. We’ll increase outreach to at-risk youth even more with our new opportunity youth comprehensive plan, which was funded in the upcoming budget. And while this is certainly a long-term implementation, we’ve funded universal, needs-based Pre-K for the first time in City history.
  • Reducing recidivism. Just this week, we participated in a program working to connect local employers with individuals who have paid their debt to society and are leaving prison. We have worked to fund expungement fees for non-violent felons with private dollars, and have lobbied to have those fees reduced. It is vitally important that ex-felons have the opportunity to become productive members of society, or else, as statistics show, they are more likely to commit crimes again.
  • Increasing economic opportunity. Tall, shiny buildings aren’t the only reason I so often tout our new developments and increased investment. It’s the jobs that they bring. We have worked at City Hall to do our jobs well to enable the private sector to invest more and more, and we’ve worked to overhaul how our community attracts new jobs. While preliminary, the April unemployment number for Memphis is 3.8 percent ⁠— the lowest on record dating back to 1990. And, 20,000 more Memphians are working today than three and a half years ago.
  • Punishing violent offenders. While there’s no question that we should explore alternatives to prison for non-violent felons, there’s also no question that we should prosecute violent felons to the fullest extent of the law. We have worked with the state to strengthen penalties for gun crimes and domestic violence, and tightened our partnership with the U.S. Attorney to drastically increase prosecutions of violent gun crimes in the tougher, federal system.

We continue to see positive signs. Violent crime was down slightly in the first quarter of this year, building on another slight decrease the year prior. Homicide is the only violent crime category that is up this year, and we all know that even one homicide victim is a victim too many.

We won’t rest until we see more positive results. Memphis deserves no less.

So, how can you help? I get that question a lot, and here’s how I respond:

  1. If you own a business, hire a young person for a summer or year-round job.
  2. Read to a child ⁠— volunteer with one of the two great programs in Memphis that have direct impacts in increasing literacy rates, which in turn position our children for better outcomes later in life. You can learn how to volunteer with Team Read here or Arise2Read here.
  3. Mentor a young person. At-risk youth are 55 percent more likely to attend college if they’ve had a mentor. You can learn more or sign up to mentor through the Grizzlies Foundation here.

Together, we will build a better Memphis.

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