Weekly Update

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This week has been difficult for Memphis, particularly for the family and friends of Liza Fletcher and the families and friends of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting rampage that terrorized our city. The brutality and senselessness of these crimes is traumatic and tragic. I am sad, and I know you are too. I am angry, and I know you are too. This is no way for us to live, and it is not acceptable.


Over the past week, the people of our city were confronted with the type of violence no one should have to face. I truly hope that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, and any such crime, are removed from society and punished to the fullest extent of the law.


To put it plainly and simply, our challenge with crime is that too many of our young people are not achieving academically in school and not properly supervised and mentored when they’re not in school. Too many teens and young adults lose hope, have no real job prospects, and no guidance. As a result, too many choose the wrong path in life.


When basketball great Bill Russell died recently, I watched a biography of his life. He grew up in inner city Oakland, California with baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.  In the biography, Mr. Robinson recalled, “The area we were in, it was a narrow line between being ok and going the wrong way.” He credited the Boys Club with helping so many young men, including Mr. Russell, of being better basketball players and people.


This is an example of why we in City government expanded MSCS’ successful partnership with the Boys and Girls Club for after-school activities at Craigmont High School to ten additional high schools.


As discussed here, we are rebuilding the Memphis Police Department, pushing for stricter laws for violent criminals, providing more after-school programs for our youth, providing those with criminal records second chances to succeed, and creating new jobs through aggressive economic development. 


While I embrace being held primarily accountable for reducing crime as Mayor of Memphis, City government is only one piece of this complex puzzle. The others:


1. Parents and familiesthousands of Memphis teens are not enrolled in school or are enrolled but are excessively absent.


2. Schoolsless than 25% of third graders read at third grade level, less than 24% of graduates are college ready, and there are challenges with enforcing truancy laws. (MSCS disputes some of the information cited in this link, and I will meet with them soon to see how we can work together to solve our juvenile crime challenge)


3. Criminal Courtstoo often violent criminals are given probation without prison time or low bonds, and a backlog of trials during the pandemic has allowed violent offenders to remain on our streets for years. According to The Daily Memphian, there are 465 pending trials in Criminal Court with the following number of completed trials as follows (no data given for the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021): 

  • 2018--113 trials
  • 2019--96 trials
  • 2022--32 trials (year to date)

4. Juvenile Court -- The last two weeks I have highlighted challenges we face with the number of juvenile offenders and the lack of accountability for those who break the law. Most of us know that 201 Poplar and the adult prisons are too often a revolving door, but most people do not understand that Juvenile Court is a revolving door on steroids. 

5. State Law – State law governs criminal sentencing and imprisonment in the Criminal Courts. State laws have allowed the proliferation of guns on our streets and has been too weak in the punishment of the wrongful use of those guns.  We did, however, improve state law greatly with the Truth in Sentencing Law this year sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Governor Randy McNally; this law stiffens the sentences for many violent crimes committed after July 1, 2022.

The evil actions from this week show why truth in sentencing is a must, and we should do all we can to make our city safe.  We should not be terrorized by anyone who wants to strike fear in our hearts and take away what we love about Memphis.  We must unite around this principle and stand up to the challenge of violent crime in our city.

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/319ba15 https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/326d298 https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/31ea65a https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/31da051 https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TNMEMPHIS/bulletins/31aa8e5


6. Federal Law – Federal law governs criminal sentencing and imprisonment in federal courts. Generally, federal sentences are stiffer than state sentences, particularly for gun crimes. The challenge is the U.S. Attorney’s limited resources to prosecute a large number of those cases. For instance, the U.S. Attorney’s office in West Tennessee can prosecute between 200 and 250 gun cases per year, while we presented to the office recently about 4,000 cases that meet federal standards.


Many of you have asked me how you can help. First, please hold all elected officials accountable for their role in reducing crime. Second, citizens can help by volunteering and mentoring young people or teaching second graders to read with ARISE2Read and Team Read.


Lastly, I want to thank the men and women of our Memphis Police Department, and all the supporting law enforcement agencies who supported in capturing the suspect on Wednesday and aided in the search for Liza Fletcher earlier this week.


This has been a painful week for our city, but I have hope for Memphis. I have love for Memphis. Most importantly, I know that united we will endure.




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