A new report from the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission’s office shows that overall crime within the city fell during 2020, but major violent crime, specifically murder and aggravated assaults, rose at a “disturbing pace.”
Major property crime, which includes burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, and other felony thefts, dropped 8.9 percent in Memphis and 8.4 percent countywide. These drops culminate with a 35.3 percent drop of property crime in the city of Memphis and a 36.4 percent drop countywide over the last 15 years.
The Crime Commission attributes the decrease in crime to a “plummeting” burglary rate. In Memphis, reported burglaries were down 26.1 percent compared to 2019. While the report mentions that it is possible this is due to an increased number of people staying at home because of COVID-19, the burglary rate in Memphis fallen 66.1 percent citywide since 2006.
For Memphians, major violent crime remained a constant threat throughout 2020. Major violent crime, which is represented by murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults, was up 24.3 percent citywide and 23.1 percent countywide. Leading the increase were an abnormally high rate of murders, with a 49 percent increase in the number of murders throughout Memphis compared to last year. Countywide there was a 45.9 percent increase in murders.
Reported aggravated assaults were up as well. Aggravated assaults increased by 35.4 percent in the city, and 34.3 percent countywide. Despite the rise in both aggravated assaults and murders, robberies city and countywide were down 12.1 percent and 13.8 percent respectively.
One of the critical factors pointed to by the reported as a driver for the increases in crime was the amount of gun violence throughout the city. The Memphis Police Department recorded a record-breaking 332 homicides in 2020. Of the 332 homicides, 262 of them were with firearms. All in all, there were 6,454 reported violent incidents that involved a firearm, which constituted a 24.6 percent jump when compared to 2019.
The Crime Commission’s president and executive director, Bill Gibbons, said that the city will need more resources to solve the crime problem throughout Memphis.
“We’ve identified evidenced-based practices that, if implemented correctly, will work to reduce violent gun crime significantly. We have leaders committed to them, but it takes resources,” Gibbons said.
The full report can be found on the Crime Commission’s website.