Weekly Update

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As we close out the year, I want to summarize some of the challenges our community faces with crime. I also want to outline some of the steps we are making to improve outcomes.

First, guns—there are many more guns on the streets than there were 10-20 years ago. I've asked veteran police officers to compare the number of guns on the streets today versus when they started on the force. Their consistent answer can be summed up by saying it’s a night and day difference. One officer said that in the early 1990’s it was unusual to arrest someone with a gun, but now it’s unusual to arrest someone without one.

Here are some examples of weapons seized in one arrest this year (5/27), and some data showing this proliferation of guns in our community (6/3).

Unfortunately, our state and federal laws have allowed this proliferation to occur, and state law forbids cities from regulating gun sales or use.

Second—while state and federal laws have allowed so many guns in our community, they've failed to adequately punish the wrongful use of guns.

Here is one new example:

Two weeks ago, two brothers (11 and 12 years old) were arrested for an armed carjacking. Juvenile court took the 12-year-old into custody but would not take the 11-year-old. Two days later, the 12-year-old was released from the court.

Fortunately, the great officers at the Memphis Police Department were able to tie the brothers to 10 additional armed robberies and were able to again arrest them three days after the first arrest.  And this time, the court was convinced to keep both in custody, so the public is not at risk of additional violent crimes by the brothers.

Below are other examples I have written about through the course of this year:

  • A man shot four people in a bowling alley and only served six months in prison. A few years later, he was arrested for the murder of Young Dolph (1/7).
  • The average time-served in Tennessee for attempted first-degree murder involving serious bodily injury is only 5.7 years (2/18).
  • A man shot someone, was sentenced to only two years, and served only 14 months. Two years later, he was involved in shooting where two people died (3/25).
  • In 2021, 25 percent of those convicted of aggravated assault were put on probation with no prison time, including drive-by shooters and people who shot others (4/8).
  • A 14-year-old was charged with the unlawful possession of guns and drugs and later with armed carjacking. At 15, he was charged with the murder of a pastor (7/22).
  • Over the course of 30 days this past summer, MPD arrested 130 people for motor vehicle theft and/or theft from a motor vehicle. Of the 130, 104 of them were never taken to jail or were immediately released, and 13 of those were repeat offenders (8/5).
  • Over the course of 39 days this past summer, MPD arrested 105 juveniles for motor vehicle theft, 57 percent of whom were repeat offenders and have current cases pending in Juvenile Court (8/5).
  • A 17-year-old was arrested for armed carjacking with a criminal history starting at age 12 with seven separate incidents, including aggravated assault (8/26).
  • Several juveniles have told MPD that they would admit to motor vehicle theft because nothing happens to youth who do so (9/2).
  • Shelby County Criminal Courts had a backlog of 465 pending trials in August, which has allowed violent offenders to remain on our streets for years (9/9).
  • Our federal prosecutor has limited resources and can only prosecute 200-250 gun cases per year when there are over 1,000 cases meeting federal requirements (9/9).
  • Two men charged with first-degree murder, were released from jail on bail, and then were involved in a shooting over drugs; two men died (10/14).
  • A suspect charged with shooting at people on the interstate was released with a $7,300 bond, and two months later, was involved in an attempted armed robbery where four men were shot and two killed (10/14).
  • A 19-year-old tried to ram two police cars and then swerved through traffic at 90 mph to avoid arrest. He only stopped after causing an accident. He was convicted of aggravated assault and put on probation—no jail time (11/4).
  • A man in a car struck a police officer on-foot, was given a $15,000 bond, and was out of jail in two days (11/4).

We’re not sitting idly by and hoping the situation will remedy itself.

Since we’ve taken office, and in partnership with the City Council, we’ve increased funding for the Memphis Police Department and improved the pay, benefits and promotions for our officers to better recruit and retain them. Most recently, this year’s budget started a ten percent pay increase for police officers (five percent this year and five percent next year).

This budget also expands the current yearly retention program to a five-year program and allows public safety employees to choose the duration of their contract. Simply put, for every one year our police officers and firefighters elect to stay with us, they will receive a nine percent annual bonus payment up to five years. 

Additionally, we've also reconfigured our recruit classes. Historically, we would wait to finish the complete program before starting another class. We are now staggering the classes, so that another recruit class can begin the program while the other wraps up enabling us to bring more officers on at a quicker pace. Just last night we graduated another 76 recruits from the academy.


All that to say, we’re doing everything in our power to recruit and retain our public safety employees.

As a reminder, below is our Public Safety Legislative Agenda for this next legislative session.

Pass the Single Article Tax bill and earmark the dollars for Public Safety: The Single Article Tax Legislation, which has been spearheaded by the Tennessee Municipal League, would not raise the tax, but would shift a small percentage of the state’s share to cities. Our goal would be to have the new money that comes in earmarked for public safety so that we can continue to enhance our efforts to retain and recruit police officers and firefighters.

Reckless Driving and the Move Over Law: Reckless driving has become more problematic in our city (and the nation for that matter), and it contributes to citizens feeling unsafe. We are proposing that if you are caught using your car recklessly on the streets of Memphis, your car should be impounded upon arrest and destroyed upon conviction.

Recently, we have also experienced an increase in accidents resulting from people not pulling over for first responders – police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and garbage trucks. By increasing the fines and/or stiffening the sentencing for ignoring the Move Over Law, citizens will know we mean business when we say pull over and get out of the way.

Sexual Assault Test Kits: We appreciate Governor Lee, Lt. Gov McNally, and Speaker Sexton adding funding and staffing to our crime labs to help speed up the processing of sexual assault test kits and all other DNA evidence. It is also important to put clear guidelines in place for how long the processing is to take place and when the kit can be sent to a private lab that would have more capacity.

Aggravated Assault: Last year’s "Truth in Sentencing" bill was a major step towards making sure that the people who are committing violent crimes remain in prison for their full sentences. Aggravated assault needs to be added to the list of crimes that are serious enough to mandate prison time and be ineligible for probation.

What can you do to help us to recruit and retain officers?

Show them you care about them and that you support their efforts keep our community safe. When you see an officer—thank them for their service. If you want to go a step further, there is a group of volunteers that is hosting several events dubbed “We’ll Have a Blue Christmas” on Monday, December 19th where police officers from the city’s nine precincts will receive free coffee and breakfast.

To volunteer or get a sign in support, you can email the group at backtheblue901@gmail.com.  

Unfortunately, crime is something that has plagued Memphis for longer than most of us care to remember. I want you to know we are working every single day on both short and long-term solutions to this decades-old problem. And just like you, I’m sick and tired of it.

But it takes all of us—state and local officials, families, neighborhoods, churches, businesses—working together towards the goal of reducing violent crime.

Together, we can, and we will make a difference.

Enjoy your weekend!


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