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Hard Truth

Black-on-black homicides are a big problem in Memphis.



In Memphis, there have been 96 homicides so far this year. Of that number, 88 of the victims and 75 of the known suspects have been black.

Although there's no concrete reason for the bulk of the city's homicides involving both black perpetrators and victims, criminologist Richard Janikowski said high poverty and low-income rates among black communities are significant factors to consider.

Janikowski also highlighted Memphis' majority-black population as another potential reason.

"A culture of violence tends to build up in high-poverty, socially disorganized neighborhoods," Janikowski said. "It's not that poverty causes crime or causes homicide, but poverty does create certain effects. Kids growing up in neighborhoods that have high rates of violence have a much higher risk of becoming violent offenders later. That whole culture of violence begins to encourage things like high homicide rates, high rates of shootings, and aggravated assaults."

A report conducted by the MPD's Crime Analysis Unit disclosed that blacks have committed 85 percent of the homicides that have taken place this year.

"Data reveals that offenses are being committed among race lines," said MPD spokesperson Karen Rudolph. "In black communities, you will find a black suspect/black victim correlation while in white communities, you will find that the majority of crimes have a white suspect/white victim correlation."

In addition to black-on-black homicides, three black suspects have been charged with the murders of three Hispanic victims. And another three black suspects have been charged with the murders of three white victims.

Aside from black victims and perpetrators, three white suspects have been charged with the murder of three black victims. Three white suspects have been charged with the murder of three white victims. One Hispanic suspect has been charged with the murder of one white victim. Sixteen of the homicide cases this year currently lack a suspect.

Among the black-on-black homicides is the murder of 16-year-old Quinton Wallace. On June 29th, Wallace was found lying unresponsive in a driveway after he'd been shot. Wallace was involved in an exchange of gunfire with a group of males when he was struck. Sixteen-year-old Marcus Goodman was charged with the shooting.

Another black-on-black homicide involved 30-year-old Pamela Green, who shot and killed 66-year-old Jerry Nelson on June 22nd. She also shot Nelson's 21-year-old nephew, who survived. A motive for the shootings remains unknown.

One white-on-white homicide this year involved 54-year-old Patrick Spencer, who shot and killed his 49-year-old wife, Lisa Spencer. The shooting took place after an argument turned physical.

To lower the number of homicides as a whole, programs like Mayor A C Wharton's Memphis Gun Down project have been implemented. The plan seeks to reduce youth gun violence by 10 percent citywide and by 20 percent in areas of Frayser and South Memphis by September 2014.

"In the areas where Memphis Gun Down has been deployed, we have seen that the rate of violent crime has been reduced," said Doug McGowen, director of the Mayor's Innovation Delivery Team. "We don't profess to have all of the answers. There's lots of people in the community who are doing great work around this specific issue, and we would like everyone to join in."

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