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City leaders respond to weekend of violence across Memphis

7 dead in 14 shootings
Updated: Aug. 17, 2020 at 5:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At least seven people were killed in more than a dozen different shootings over the weekend in Memphis.

From Friday to early Monday morning, WMC Action News 5 counted 14 shootings that the Memphis Police Department said officers were investigating.

The shootings stretched from one end of the city to the other, from Whitehaven to downtown to Cordova.

At least 14 people were shot, and seven people died.

“It enrages me. It depresses me,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Monday.

Strickland says part of the violence stems from young people with no place to go because of the pandemic.

“So many of the good outlets that we have – community centers and after-school activities, schools, have been closed to young people, so there’s very few positive outlets,” said Strickland.

He says another part of the problem is that the city is about 700 police officers short.

Right now, the city has about 2,100. He says it needs 2,800.

“I had over the weekend, several people text or email me saying they want more patrols. They want more visibility of police officers out in the streets and we just don’t have them now,” said Strickland.

Memphis City Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas recently led the effort to take the police residency referendum off the November ballot.

If approved, it would have allowed MPD officers to live outside Shelby County, potentially boosting recruitment.

“Well, you said we have another weekend of violence, but we also have another weekend of poverty. We also have another weekend of folks who are going hungry, folks who are going homeless, folks who are about to be up in the courts for evictions,” said Easter-Thomas. “So, all of those work together and crime is not just doing its own thing in a silo.”

Easter-Thomas says to reduce crime it’s important to focus on solving the “root problems” that lead to it, such as poverty, something Strickland has also talked about.

“I think it can happen as fast as people are willing to work and talk together in local government, city and county,” said Easter-Thomas.

Right now, there are about 40 additional federal agents in Memphis who are focused on solving violent crime, part of Operation LeGend.

Police Director Mike Rallings says while he’s happy to have the agents in Memphis, it’s just a drop in the bucket of the number of officers the city needs.

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