MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland delivered his annual State of the City address to community leaders Wednesday afternoon at the Kiwanis Club, highlighting the city's momentum and challenges.
A big priority for Strickland is trying to beef up the number of officers Memphis Police Department has in its ranks, so adequate numbers of officers are patrolling city streets.
"Crime is our greatest challenge. Everywhere I go in every corner of this city, I hear it," Strickland said.
Strickland said 2018 should bring relief to the understaffed MPD, with a class of 84 recruits set to graduate Thursday and two classes that will be formed this year.
"I'm obviously frustrated that the level of violent crime is too high, so our work is not complete there," he said.
MPD hit its lowest staffing level in August of 2017 with 1,909 officers. The department is at 1,950 officers as of mid-January, with a goal of 2,300 by the year 2020.
Memphis notched 228 homicides in 2016, while the number of homicides in 2017 sat at 200.
Strickland said eight new officers will be added to MPD's gang unit to try and intervene in gang activity in neighborhoods, before gang leaders can target youth.
"We're at a critical level, so adding gives them an opportunity to investigate and support our other units," MPD Director Mike Rallings said.
Strickland touted some of his administration's achievements like reducing 911 call wait times, proposing de-annexation to "right size" the city, expanding programming at Memphis parks, and seeing $11 billion in development in Greater Memphis.
Strickland also told the crowd the removal of Confederate monuments in December was legal despite a new challenge in court.
"That was absolutely the right thing. A lawsuit has been filed," Strickland said, "We are very confident it was done legally."
A hearing on the lawsuit was set for Wednesday, but Strickland said it was reset because of the weather conditions.
Strickland said he and the Memphis City Council are also working toward a funding model for universal pre-kindergarten in Shelby County, and it will likely be publicized in the coming weeks and months.
Below you can read Strickland's full speech: