Weekly Update

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There is an old saying that politics is a contact sport. But what is even more true in all aspects of life, including government—getting things done is a team sport.


Whether it was finding a way to fund universal needs-based Pre-K for every child who needs it or coming together as a community to form the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force to navigate our way through the pandemic—our community comes together when it matters to get things done.


Finding a way to fund Transit Vision is no different. Earlier this week, the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission helped set us on a path to do it.


I want to thank all members of the council for its unanimous support, but specifically the lead co-sponsors—Councilman Edmund Ford, Sr., Councilman Chase Carlisle, and Councilwoman Patrice Robinson. Thank you for your commitment and diligence through the process.


Thank you to Shelby County Commissioners Edmund Ford, Jr. and David Bradford for their bipartisan support and leadership on the county side.


To Gary Rosenfeld, his team at MATA, and the MATA Board of Commissioners, thank you for your work to help get us here, and thank you for all you do for our community.


Lastly, but equally as important, thank you to our Chief Operating Officer, Doug McGowen. I know this is something he is very passionate about and has worked on tirelessly for many years. It would not have been possible without him. Thanks for all you do for our city, Doug!


Enough is enough: We must all recognize a fundamental change in our society; the biggest difference today with crime versus years ago, including as recently as 10 years ago, is the proliferation of guns.


Fist fighters and pick-pockets of yesteryear are now armed with guns.


Police officers have told me that it was unusual to arrest someone with a gun 25 years ago, and today, it’s routine. Below are some examples from a recent arrest:




guns 1


guns 2


Another example of the rapid increase in guns is the horrific murders at the grade school in Uvalde, Texas and the mass shootings that have become too common in the United States in the last 15 years. This is uniquely an American challenge.


We need three big changes.  First, we need strong federal laws with reasonable restrictions on weapons. We also need stronger state laws punishing gun crimes and more intervention with those at-risk of using guns.


First, I agree with former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, who said this week:


sen frist

Second, we need stronger state sentencing laws for violent criminals who use guns.  As I wrote two months ago, last year, in Shelby County Criminal Court, there were 280 guilty verdicts involving only aggravated assault. (There were likely many other cases involving aggravated assault, but those defendants were also charged with other crimes).


Of those 280 cases, 25 percent of them were granted judicial diversion, meaning no prison time. Another 37 percent were sentenced from 1-3 years in prison. Remember, at present, a prisoner only serves 30 percent of their sentence. So, if you have a three-year sentence, you’re only serving about 11 months.


Below are just a few of the actions of the defendants who served no prison time due to weak state laws.

  • Defendant shot his roommate with a handgun
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Defendant fired shots at one victim and hit another victim in the leg with handgun
  • Defendant shot handgun at victim and her child
  • Defendant shot victim in the stomach
  • Defendant fired shots at victim's vehicle

If we are serious about gun crime, gun crime should result in serious prison time.


Thankfully, state government increased the sentences for violent crimes so that defendants must serve 85 – 100 percent starting July 1, 2022.  Aggravated assault was increased to 85 percent. This will be a much stronger deterrent.


Third, we need more intervention with those at-risk of using guns.


Here is an example of the need for more intervention from April and May of this year.  On April 1, a 13-year old stole a car. He was caught by MPD, and was released to his mother with a Juvenile Summons.  No intervention, counseling or rehabilitation.


On April 14, this 13-year old and his 15-year old friend each pointed guns at a man in a store parking lot and stole his car. They were captured, and while it is unclear what occurred in court, they were out in just three weeks.


On May 16, these two friends (1) pointed guns at two women and stole their vehicle and (2) pointed guns at a woman in a store parking lot, struck her in the back of the head, and stole her vehicle.  Fortunately, officers captured one of the teens, and the other’s court-ordered ankle monitor showed him at the scene of one of the robberies.


Sadly, this story is one of many. In the last several years, there has been a significant increase in juvenile gun crime in Memphis, but Shelby County Juvenile Court lacks sufficient funding to intervene with the large volume of at-risk teens, and those teens and their families need immediate, intense intervention, counseling and assistance.  Juvenile Court has asked for more funding.


From a City standpoint, we’ve recently funded a group violence intervention program, or as we call it, GVIP. It’s a comprehensive and collaborative initiative aimed directly at interrupting the cycle of violent crime by adding new and significant resources to that work. GVIP has been developed from evidence-based practices that have worked in other cities.


Additionally, we’re providing more opportunities for those who want turn their lives around and for young people to have meaningful activities when not in school as noted here, here and here. And just today, we put out our Summer in Memphis (SIM) guide. SIM is a guide to the many free amenities that the City of Memphis offers. We have so many activities, programs, and scheduled events available at our libraries, parks, and community centers to keep our young people active and engaged through the summer months, and this guide provides a one-stop shop to make them easy to find.


Battle of the Badges: Battle of the badges is this Saturday, and the gates open at AutoZone Park at 3:30PM with the game starting at 4:30PM. Come out and support Memphis Fire and Police as they go head to head in a softball game at AutoZone Park. A Redbirds game will immediately follow the softball game. Discount tickets are available by clicking here. If you try to buy tickets and none are available, please check back as more tickets will be added daily.


Also, and on another fun note, Fire Station 18, which serves the University of Memphis area, just received a new pumper truck.




We introduced it to the neighborhood earlier this week. Click on the picture above to watch the video.


Enjoy your holiday weekend!




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