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Bite Out of Crime

Area law-breaking at its lowest levels since 2006.

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In late June, a rash of homicides over the course of two days may have led some to believe that Memphis crime was at an all-time high. But a mid-year Memphis Police Department (MPD) report shows the city's overall crime rate is down 14 percent from last year.

In separate incidents June 20th and 21st, bullets claimed the lives of 18-year-old Terry Wilkins, 39-year-old James G. Wilson, 38-year-old Thomas Burton, and 29-year-old Stephen Faulkner. Other homicides included the beating death of Laverne Humphries and the stabbing of 16-year-old Brandon Harris.

Including those six deaths, Memphis has had 63 reported homicides to date, versus 72 by this time last year. Robberies, burglaries of businesses, carjacking, and rape are also down from last year.

"When crime was up about 4 percent in 2005 and still climbing in 2006, if you would have told me we could reduce crime in double digits, I would have said there's no way," said Memphis police director Larry Godwin.

Godwin attributes the lower crime rate to the department's Blue Crush data-driven policing method, as well as new technology, such as the Real Time Crime Center and mobile Sky Cop surveillance cameras.

In early 2006, the MPD began its Blue Crush policing method, in which the department teamed up with the University of Memphis to track crime statistics. That information determined crime "hot spots," and MPD focused on those areas.

Officers also view surveillance cameras inside the state-of-the-art Real Time Crime Center, which was unveiled last year.

The MPD has made significant strides in lowering burglaries and robberies, with business burglaries down 14 percent and business robberies down 41 percent from last year. Burglaries of individuals have decreased 10 percent, and robbery of individuals is down 2 percent.

A robbery involves the taking of something by force, threats, or intimidation, while a burglary is the unlawful entry of a home or business to commit a felony or theft.

"The big reason for the drop in burglary is because I declared war on burglary," Godwin said. "Five percent of the criminals are committing 50 percent of the crimes, so we're arresting those repeat offenders."

For example, Godwin said officers in East Memphis recently arrested seven people responsible for multiple break-ins.

"Our burglaries dropped 37 percent with those seven arrests," Godwin said. "One of the individuals pointed out about 15 houses that he had broken into. He couldn't even remember how many. We had to drive him around so he could tell us which houses he was responsible for."

Although the numbers have dropped in most areas of violent crime, Godwin says the best way to ensure that crime stays down is to hire about 500 more police officers.

"There's no question that we're going in the right direction. We have almost 5,000 less victims today than we had in 2006," Godwin said. "But I think we can do better. That will be easier when we get more officers on the streets."

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