Criminal homicides rise in 2011 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Criminal homicides rise in 2011

Crime experts said there probably is not one specific reason why there were more homicides in Memphis in 2011, but there is a specific group Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he will be targeting. Crime experts said there probably is not one specific reason why there were more homicides in Memphis in 2011, but there is a specific group Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he will be targeting.

(WMC-TV) - Criminal homicides in Memphis are up almost 25 percent compared to this time last year.

Crime experts said there probably is not one specific reason why there were more homicides in Memphis in 2011, but there is a specific group Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he will be targeting as he and police attempt to lower the murder rate in the coming years.

This time last year, Memphis was celebrating a record low number of homicides.  There were 92 in all of 2010, but there have been 118 so far in 2011.

There are many theories on why the number is up, but Wharton said the suspects are often young men armed with a gun.

"We don't like it, it's bad," said Wharton.  "Having said that though, there may be a silver lining."

Wharton said the city now has funds to tackle what he believes is at the root of the problem.

"So much of the tendency to use a handgun starts at a very early age," said Wharton.

Memphis is one of five cities to receive a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.  Part of the $4.8 million will be spent addressing handgun violence among young people.

"It's much more than seeing how many of them we can catch, or how many of them we can transport to juvenile or to 201," said Wharton.

Wharton said court judges will be able to order intervention programs not only for the suspects, but for their young siblings who often follow in their footsteps.

"The whole premise is that we're going to deal with it the way you would deal with a health crisis," said Wharton.

Wharton said this year's homicide rate is unacceptable, but he is particularly troubled by how many cases in the courts involve a suspect who is under 21 years old.

Wharton said he will be introducing legislation this year that will allow the General Sessions Court to keep offenders on probation for up to two years.  Currently, the maximum is 11 months and 29 days.  He said that is not long enough to rehabilitate young criminals.

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