Memphis may achieve lowest murder rate in over 30 years - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis may achieve lowest murder rate in over 30 years

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin

By Ursula Madden - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - For the first time in more than three decades, Memphis will his a positive milestone when it comes to murder in Memphis.  With just under three weeks left in 2010, the murder count in the Bluff City is at a record low.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin gives the lion share of credit to his officers.  In a recent interview, Godwin praised the use of technology, like the Real-Time Crime Center.  

Godwin said the MPD continues to build community relationships with Cyber-watch and neighborhood watch programs, along with the overall crime reduction strategy, Blue Crush.

"I didn't originally like the name," Godwin said. "I said, 'We're not going to go out here and crush anybody.'  They said, 'No, that's Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History.'"

The name stuck, and six years later Blue Crush continues to chip away at the city's crime problem.  Using data allows police to target potential hot spots for crime, and the numbers show a dramatic change.  Fewer crimes have been reported in 2010 than in 2006, from just over 65,000 to just under 48,000 - a 26 percent drop!

"You look at homicides, we're approaching a 20-30 year low," Godwin said.

The number of homicides hasn't dropped below 100 in the city of Memphis since 1978.  But now, with two and a half weeks left in the year, the number of murders stands at 86.

Godwin says the creation of the Felony Assault Unit is driving down the numbers.

"We had a 16 percent solve rate," he said. "Right now we're at a 70 percent solve rate.  It's the aggravated assaults that were turning into homicides, so with that solve rate, you're removing individuals who probably would have committed a homicide."

Still, problems still plague the city.

"Do we have some crime do we have some issues? Yes we do. Are we fixing it? I think we are," Godwin said.

One such issue, Godwin said, is domestic violence.

"Domestic violence is driving our numbers in homicides," he said. "They know their victims - the victim knows the assailant."

Then there's juvenile crime.

"I think we have some things on the horizon that will really make a difference, hopefully in the juvenile crime, hopefully in partnering with parents to see if we can give this kids an opportunity," Godwin said.

The Memphis Police Department is looking at ways to go beyond locking up juvenile offenders.

"We've always done a really good job of arresting people and locking people up," Godwin said. "But when they get in there, what's happening with them and what's going to change their life?"

Now, with crime down, Director Godwin is scheduled to retire in April of 2011.

"I think with the drop plan, I don't know anyone who has ever stayed," he said. "However, we have had folks retire and return, and I think that's kind of where I am."

Ultimately whether or not Godwin remains the city's top cop will be up to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.  If Godwin leaves the force in April, he will have served the Memphis Police Department for 38 years.

Godwin said he feels energized about the direction of the department, but added even if he does retire from the force, he'll probably continue to serve Memphis in another role.

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