For the price of a super-sized value meal, a baby-faced teenager in Memphis put a gun to 81-year-old Dolores Ladd’s head last spring, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. His accomplice snatched Ladd’s purse from her arm. Blood welled from a scratch on her hand. “I thought, ‘You poor kids, you’ve gone through an awful lot just to get seven dollars,’ ” she said.
The first six months of 2003 in Memphis were just as violent as the first six of 2002, says the FBI’s preliminary Uniform Crime Report. Fewer murders and rapes were reported during the period, but a slight rise in other crimes, such as aggravated assault and burglary, kept the city at its usual high level of violent crime. More than 5,000 violent crimes were reported the first six months of both years. That’s about 750 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
“There’s no denying that we have a significant crime problem,” said Grey Mobley, senior researcher for the Shelby County Crime Commission. Aside from the armed robbery, Ladd’s home has been burglarized four times. “Five times in eight years,” she said. “It’s a bit much.”
In 2003, MPD reported 16,807 burglaries, up from 16,087 in 2002. Police say the 4.5 percent increase was partly due to pillaging after a big storm in July. Homicide went down 16 percent, from 135 reported in 2002 to 113 in 2003. Police believe the decrease was due to a strong effort to boost domestic violence awareness.
Business robberies were up by 30 percent in 2003, with 684 reported in 2002 and 894 in 2003. Police say that boost came mostly from a ring of Gangster Disciples who targeted stores. Members were arrested in January.
Memphis’s crime rate comes up frequently with Steve Shipp of Mid-America Development, who deals with people thinking about moving to Memphis. Most clients have seen Memphis on lists for high crime, so he acknowledges the issue, then highlights the city’s better points. “You try to balance the negatives with the positives, but sometimes that gets difficult,” he said.