MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - In his first State of the City speech, Mayor Jim Strickland touted several steps his administration is taking to improve Memphis.
He said he is planning to double up the efforts that work on cracking down on crime. Yet, city leaders said it will take more than that to end the problem.
His State of the City address started on a high note--touting the top achievements in Memphis in 2016. From the Crosstown Concourse building being occupied to the growth of St. Jude, and Service Master moving its headquarters, Strickland said residents have a lot to celebrate.
Still, he agrees more needs to be done to tackle crime, and he revealed his plan to do just that.
"I'm also proud to announce today that we are doubling what we do in street level gang intervention, through the 901 BLOC squad," Strickland said.
He said this program has worked to reduce 32 percent of youth violence in Frayser and he plans to expand it to other areas as well.
"We're going to take what works and multiply it," Strickland said.
He said the Violent Crime Bureau lead by Director Rallings is now active and helps to focus on the most serious crimes. The goal, according to Strickland, is to investigate, identify, arrest, and convict the more violent and repeat offenders.
A central focus of his speech was the recruitment of new police officers. Strickland praised the arrival of 31 graduates of the police academy, and the more than 100 applicants in the upcoming recruit class.
This comes after Strickland and the police union got into a war of words over the union's controversial billboard campaign.
"Crime correlates with two things: poverty and education," Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd said. "If you don't fix your education system, and you don't fix your poverty problem, you won't fix crime."
Shelby County School Board members have an idea to help.
"I would like to see our community centers open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. I would like to see community centers open longer on the weekends," School board member Stephanie Love said.
The mayor said they will continue to lower the crime rates, but takes everyone in the community to make it happen.
"No question about it, the most important role for city government is providing for public safety," Strickland said. "The steps that we're describing today will further strengthen the city's commitment."
Strickland's full speech can be read below: