Memphis had 200 homicides in 2017, down from the 228 slayings in 2016, the deadliest year recorded in the city in two decades, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Last year, Police Director Michael Rallings attributed the increase in violence to a combination of increased gang activity, access to guns and domestic violence related incidents. This year, Mayor Jim Strickland couldn’t say why there was a decline in homicides in 2017, but he noted that the city is hiring more police officers and providing programs to help children in the city.
Bill Gibbons of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission said the decline in homicides in the city is “very, very encouraging news … but we have a long way to go to get where we need to be.” Gibbons said the crime-fighting plan Operation: Safe Community is being used by the city and law enforcement to help reduce crime along with recruiting and retaining police officers. “It would be a leap to say that … steps we’ve taken have already had a significant impact on the crime rate because a lot of these are just being implemented, so it is going to take a while to really have an impact in a measurable way,” Gibbons said. He cited New York City, which recorded 290 killings last year compared with 334 in 2016. “Twenty years ago, people kind of accepted a high crime rate, but they don’t accept that in New York City, so it has been a change in the mindset, and I think we can see that in Memphis as well,” Gibbons said.