Weekly Update

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Through the years, I have often written about our efforts to reduce crime, (here and here are just a couple examples) and I accept primary responsibility to achieve better results.  City government is, however, only one piece of the puzzle, and many other people and entities have unique authority over important matters that are integral to crime reduction.

For instance, state law exclusively governs criminal sentences, and criminal courts administer those laws. Please review these Weekly Updates for examples of challenges we face due to these laws (here and here). In addition, state law has allowed the proliferation of guns throughout the community and prohibits cities from any regulations governing access to weapons.

Today, I want to touch on the large increase in juvenile crime. Here are some of the reasons for the increase.

First, the United States Department of Justice greatly limited the number of youth Shelby County Juvenile Court can hold in custody. The reason for the order was admirable – to keep fewer youth from being engulfed in the court system.  The downside has been little-to-no punishment for juvenile offenders, the court lacking adequate funding from Shelby County to monitor and rehabilitate those offenders, and violent crime has increased.

Here is an example. Three teens were caught in my neighborhood breaking into cars in early January.  They were 14,15, and 17 years old, and it was 2:00 a.m. Due to the DOJ’s consent decree, they could not be taken to Juvenile Court.  Instead, they were given a summons ordering them to appear in court in 30 days and released to their parents.

No one from the court called the parents the next day to ask why their child was out at 2:00 a.m. breaking into cars and to offer assistance.  Nothing happened for 30 days.  Only one of the three showed up in court when ordered.

Does anyone think that this was the only night the teens were out, and these were the only cars they broke into?

There is almost no deterrence and little intervention occurring because Shelby County Juvenile Court is greatly underfunded.

From January 1, 2018, through June 30, 2022, Memphis police officers arrested 994 juveniles for motor vehicle theft, 30% of the total people arrested (3,280) for that crime.

In the last 39 days, MPD arrested 105 juveniles for motor vehicle theft—57% of whom are repeat offenders and have current cases pending in Juvenile Court.

Due to limited punishment and rehabilitation, not only has juvenile crime risen—the offenses are getting worse.  Earlier this week, Fox 13 ran the story of a 17-year-old arrested by police for an armed carjacking with this criminal history:

12-years old – Domestic Violence

13-years old – Disorderly Conduct

14-years old – Simple Assault

14-years old – Criminal Trespassing

15-years old – Simple Assault

15-years old – Aggravated Assault

15-years old – Assault/Intimidation and Vandalism

Memphis Police arrested him eight times, and the crimes progressively became more violent.

As I said earlier, City government has a role to play in curbing violent crime in our community. But if we’re going to have a long-term impact, it will take all of us—state and local government, churches, our school system, and most importantly, parents—working together to help our youth choose the right path instead of the wrong path in their lives.

SBLS Upgrades: The City of Memphis has invested $2 million in capital improvements for facility upgrades and enhancements to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium (SBLS) for the 2022 football season. The facility improvements will be unfolding in multiple phases, but some of the upgrades completed this year will be immediately noticeable to fans. 

Those improvements include re-striping of the SBLS parking lot spaces and a full pressure washing of all public spaces within the venue, including the seating bowl, concourses, restrooms, entry gates and ramps. But the most prominent addition, however, is the stadium’s new turf for Rex Dockery Field.

In addition, fans will find new features including fan experience enhancement, facility improvements, security upgrades, and expedited points of entry and concessions improvements. As part of a series of ongoing technology upgrades, new high-definition TV Monitors will be upgraded throughout the stadium’s premium areas, the addition of AT&T to compliment Verizon on the Stadium’s Distributed Antennae System (DAS) for cell phone service, and when fans enter the stadium this season, they will be greeted by new, easy-to-use ticket scanning pedestals. 


ICYMI: As you might have seen, it was announced earlier this week that (thanks in large part to Congressman Steve Cohen) MATA will be receiving two grants from the federal government totaling $76.3 million.  Of that total, $54 million will go to buy new buses and build a new facility. The other grant of $22.3 million is to purchase up to 16 electric buses along with the infrastructure to support them.


Increasing funding for public transportation has always been a top priority. When I took office in 2016, annual funding for MATA was a little more than $23 million.  We knew this was insufficient. Over four years and in partnership with city council, we increased this funding by 43 percent to almost $33 million in FY20. Then the pandemic hit, our revenues plummeted, and we were forced to temporarily lower our contribution by $10 million. Fortunately, MATA did not suffer financially as we were able to supplement that gap with federal funding over the last two years.


While we still have a way to go, we were able to restore MATA funding in this year’s budget back to pre-pandemic levels by adding $10 million worth of operating funds, and for the very first time ever and in partnership with City Council, we established a dedicated transit fund. This dedicated funding stream will grow to just around $11 million of additional revenue by FY2030.


I tell you all that to say—the award of the federal grant did not happen by chance. Whether through our first long-range plan in over 40 years, Memphis 3.0 or our Transit Vision, much hard work from many people has gone into reshaping and reimagining MATA. Plan your work and work your plan. Thanks again to Congressman Cohen for working to secure these funds for Memphis.


Good people: I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll gladly say it again. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with strong dedicated leaders during my time as mayor. Through her duties as deputy chief operating officer or interim director of the Division of Solid Waste, Chandell Ryan is one of those leaders.


As an LDI graduate and board of trustees member of New Memphis, Chandell recently shared her thoughts on leadership. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks for all you do for our community, Chandell.


Enjoy your weekend!




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