Mayor: Biggest focus in 2018 will be crime reduction

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Police said 200 people were killed in 2017 compared to 2016's record-breaking year of 228 homicides.

Of those 200 homicides, 186 were criminal and the remaining 14 were justifiable.

Officials were able to solve 129 of the 200 homicides. Police also said the victims and suspects knew each other in 123 of the 129 solved homicides.

Troy Booker is one of many fathers grieving and praying for a change in the city in 2018. His son was an innocent bystander shot and killed in December.

"We need to get more cops out there and they need to be on alert," Booker said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland admits help for MPD is on the way and said his biggest focus in 2018 will be crime.

"Clearly the biggest challenge is crime, and we've said that since the day I was sworn in," Strickland said.

MPD plans to add more officers. Strickland said the city is seeing an increase in police recruitment, and his administration has added incentives aimed at retaining more officers.

The mayor wasn't available for an interview Tuesday to detail more specifics, but he spoke Monday at the city's prayer breakfast.

"Doing a lot more programming in our libraries and community centers, intervening in lives of young people," Strickland said.

He said he's still lobbying for harsher punishments for violent offenders and working to add even more jobs to the thousands of new jobs in 2017.

"I know they're doing what they can, but I know more can be done," Booker said.

Booker also agrees with the mayor, saying it takes everyone to truly fight this problem.

The city released the following statement, including a list of active plans they've been working on to fix crime and improve Memphis.

We are seeing success in rebuilding the Memphis Police Department. Because of our efforts, the largest class in seven years graduated from the academy in August. Another large class started a few weeks after that, and it's set to graduate on Jan. 12. Coupled with reduced attrition thanks to compensation and benefits initiatives, we look for the 2017 starting classes to provide the first net gain of officers in seven years.

Simply put, help is on the way for MPD.

We group our crime reduction efforts into five areas. Here they are, with items we've acted on listed in each category:

Rebuilding MPD (We had 2,452 officers in November 2011; we started 2018 with about 1,960. That's up from about 1,915 in early August, which was the lowest number in at least a decade.)

  • The largest recruit class in seven years graduated in August.
  • Two classes are funded in this budget.
  • Another class of 100 started in late August and will graduate in January.
  • We expanded recruitment to neighboring cities;visits to Birmingham, Jackson (Miss.) and Little Rock increased our lateral recruiting applications by 30 percent.
  • We worked to fix an antiquated hiring process -- we're now allowing candidates to apply online, for instance, which has increased our applications by 70 percent.
  • We brought back the PST program as a force multiplier to allow commissioned officers to focus on violent crime and created the Blue Path program as a pipeline to become a PST.
  • We landed a nationally unprecedented $6.1 million grant for retention bonuses and to boost recruiting, and 80 percent of the eligible officers signed up. Attrition in 2017 has slowed from previous years.
  • Officer compensation has improved, including three pay increases in 18 months and the restoration of pre-65 health insurance subsidies.

Offering more for our youth (A 2015 study showed that Memphis had the highest percentage of "disconnected" youth -- who either aren't in school or aren't employed -- in the country.)

  • We increased summer youth jobs from 1,000 to 1,250.
  • We partnered with the My Brother's Keeper Alliance to provide nearly 500 jobs or second interviews to young people in June.
  • Library hours expanded, including 10 neighborhood branches that are now open an extra day.
  • We increased community center programming, with spring break camps and literacy components in summer camps, as well as after school programming.

Reducing recidivism

  • We supported successful bills in the state legislature to lower barriers to expungement. In the 2018 legislative session, we will lobby for reduced fees for diversion programs.
  • We're paying for expungement fees through our privately-funded Better Memphis Fund, which removes hurdles to the workforce for people with nonviolent records.

Increasing economic opportunity

  • Some 12,000 Memphians were employed in late 2017 who weren't employed when the mayor took office. Our monthly unemployment rate in September 2017 was the city's lowest in at least 27 years.
  • We actively pursued decisions to place corporate headquarters in Memphis -- such as ServiceMaster, which retained some 1,200 jobs.
  • We're raising awareness of 15,000 open jobs in Memphis area -- plus free training, education and assistance -- at
  • The MWBE share of City of Memphis contracting has increased by 69 percent since taking office.

Lobbying for stiffer sentences for violent crime

  • We successfully lobbied for a stiffer sentence for felons in possession of guns, as gun violence is a large driver of violent crime.
  • We successfully lobbied for better laws to address domestic violence, as this also makes up a large category of our crime.

We also want you to join us in our action. Get involved in helping our young people pick the right path in life by mentoring or by reading to a kid. You can learn more at

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