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Crime data sobering despite declines in violent offenses

As 2023 begins, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis Tuesday (Jan. 10) delivered a mixed-bag overview to Memphis City Council members about Memphis crime in 2022.

She delivered the update to the council’s Public Safety Committee, citing, among other things, a significant 16.2 percent drop in homicides compared to 202; 302 homicides in 2022, compared to 347 in 2021.

That was good news for a city that is consistently listed in various crime studies as among the deadliest in the nation.

“The focus is always on reducing violent crime. Property crimes are always a concern, but we want the city to be a safe city where we have less injuries to persons, less fatalities,” said Davis.

However, property crimes, particularly auto thefts, continue to vex owners and police alike.

For the year, there were 1,357 arrests for auto theft. Many of the thefts are committed by youthful offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, according to MPD Deputy Chief Information Systems, Joe Oakley.

That information added weight to a Memphis Shelby Crime Commission community forum on juvenile crime Saturday at New Salem Baptist Church.

Oakley said there were around 1,900 Hyundais and 1,800 Kia’s stolen last year, the top choices for thieves locally and nationally.

Davis added, “The whole trend is a nationwide trend as it relates to these vehicles that are easy to steal without having to break the steering wheel…(thieves) put wires together, (use) USB cords and all kinds of other conventional ways of stealing vehicles,” said Davis.

Infinitis were the third most stolen car brand, with 1,227 stolen.

Police said the culprits steal vehicles to joyride or used the vehicles in commission of another crime.

To help owners of these vehicle brands, the MPD asked local dealerships for help. They eagerly provided steering wheel column locks that will be made available to owners.

“It’s kind of antiquated…used steering wheel locks, years ago. But they work,” said Davis.

A kill-switch, which remotely cuts power from the battery to the car’s computer also was mentioned.

“Any citizen who owns any car, especially a Kia or Hyundai could use a kill switch, the Club-like steering devices, after market alarm, anything that they can use to prevent their car from being stolen is great,” said Oakley.

He continued, “If they don’t have power, they’re not going to be able to override it (the kill switch). The car won’t start. It’s like a breaker in your home. If you have that breaker flipped up, there’s no power.”

While efforts to curb property theft have been largely stuck in reverse, the efforts to tackle violent crime have begun to have an effect, although the effects often aren’t as noticeable to members of violence-plagued communities.

The police officials praised the wrap-around services provided to victims, as well as potential perpetrators. In addition to providing support for grieving families, the MPD works to prevent retribution killings by family members, friends, or gang members.

“We understood the maximum we were going to see was about a 10 percent reduction in crime per year. We’ve been through our first full year of having this wraparound plan…that’s almost exactly what the number is…

“If we keep doing this, we will be able to see marked improvement, but it’s something we have to stick with and make sure that we fund; make sure that if you guys need more, or if there’s anything else you need along the way with that program, let us know. We’ll see what we can do,” said council member Jeff Warren.

Other violent crimes also dropped. Aggravated assaults fell by 9.7 percent, while rapes dipped 3.8 percent for the year.

“Aggravated assault could be a homicide, so to see reductions in the number of shootings also contributes to the reductions in homicides…Our gang unit has been really active in various types of gang-related activities, as well,” said Davis.

Domestic violence problems persisted. In fact, like last year, the first homicide of the year was a result of domestic violence.

“The domestic violence situation is one that continues to be challenging. We try to make sure our officers are able to help mitigate some of those situations when they go out on those calls.

“Also…they can assess a situation and make sure that an individual, if there was some history there, if the person is on some type of restraining order, that they address those issues and also have follow up with the appropriate person,” said Davis.

The violent crime dip also is attributed to a greater police presence in high crime areas. For members of these communities, the extra show of force is welcome, the officers said.


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