Both Memphis and all of Shelby County reduced the violent crime rate in 2018 compared to 2017, with the most progress in Memphis. Reported gun crimes in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County also declined significantly in 2018.
Data about this trend was released in a Jan. 25 report by the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, and they are based on preliminary data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
Inside the city of Memphis, the violent crime rate dropped 4.2 percent compared to 2017. In Shelby County as a whole, the decline was 3.6 percent. The rate is calculated based on the total number of reported murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 residents.
A significant reduction in reported robberies drove the overall decline, with reported robberies dropping 12.1 percent in Memphis and 11.5 percent in all of Shelby County. In raw numbers. the decline was from 3,492 reported robberies to 3,069 in the city of Memphis and from 3,626 to 3,210 countywide.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods G.U.N. (Government United for Non-Violence) Unit maintains data on reported gun crimes in Memphis and the unincorporated parts of Shelby County. According to its data, reported gun crimes declined in 2018 by 15.8 percent compared to 2017. The figures include reported crimes committed with guns and charges for illegal possession of guns.
Contrary to the overall decline in violent crime was the number of charges brought against juveniles for violent delinquent acts. According to data from Juvenile Court, the total number of such charges came to 661 in 2018, an 8.5 percent increase over 2017. In addition, all delinquent charges for both violent and non-violent offenses increased 16.5 percent compared to 2017.
“The 2018 crime statistics give us reason to be both encouraged and concerned,” said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich. “It is encouraging because major violent crime is down overall, especially crimes of rape, domestic violence and robbery. What is concerning, however, is the significant increase – 16.5 percent – in delinquent offenses charged against juveniles, including 661 major violent charges. That is a trend we all must work to reverse for the safety of the community.”
Bill Gibbons, president of the Crime Commission and executive director of the Public Safety Institute, said, “We can take some encouragement from the 2018 figures but also know we have a long way to go in our community-wide efforts to reduce violent crime.”
He noted that violent crime was at its lowest point in recent years in 2011, which was the year the Memphis Police Department (MPD) had its highest complement of police officers.
The major property crime rate (based on reported burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and other felony thefts) showed a slight increase of 1.0 percent both in Memphis and countywide in 2018. The increase was driven by the continuing challenge of motor vehicle thefts (up 10.1 percent in the city and 12.6 percent countywide). Reported burglaries actually dropped significantly, down 11.6 percent in the city and 10.0 percent in the entire county.
Reported domestic violence incidents showed a significant decline – down 10.4 percent in Memphis and 9.0 percent countywide.
The TBI tracks “Group A” crime offenses composed of a total of 54 specific crime categories, including but not limited to the major violent and major property crimes. Arguably, the Group A crime rate gives a more complete picture of overall crime trends. In Memphis, the overall Group A crime rate was down 3.6 percent in 2018, and countywide it declined 3.1 percent.
The Crime Commission spearheaded development of the current community-wide plan to reduce crime called Operation: Safe Community and is “quarterbacking” its implementation. It is a balanced plan that includes prevention, intervention and enforcement objectives.
Gibbons noted a number of objectives in the plan being implemented that focus on reducing violent crime, more specifically, gun crime. Those objectives include:
- Enactment of tougher state gun laws and stepped up efforts at both the federal and state levels to hold individuals accountable for committing gun crimes;
- A Focused Deterrence Initiative launched by the D.A.’s office to focus on serious offenders and reduce the likelihood that they continue criminal behavior;
- The Safeways crime prevention program in major apartment communities;
- Increased staffing for the Multi-Agency Gang Unit; and
- A renewed commitment to data-driven policing coupled with an increase in MPD officers. (A recent assessment by the U of M’s Public Safety Institute showed immediate reductions in major crime categories on a consistent basis in certain geographic areas identified as “hot spots” warranting additional resources through data-driven policing.