Crime in Memphis: How did we get here, how do we get out?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A record number of homicides. Thousands of vehicles stolen. Businesses repeatedly ransacked. The problems continue to mount.

Memphians are frustrated about the lawlessness that has been running rampant. For months, WREG Investigators have been digging deeper to address your concerns and discuss possible solutions.

“I feel violated honestly. You work hard, and people take things you work hard for,” crime victim David Gaulmon said.

In 2023, major property crime increased more than 17 percent in Memphis. Police say it was driven by thousands of vehicles stolen. It left their owners without reliable transportation.
Some losing their jobs because of it.

“What are they going to do to stop it? Not only is my car gone. I have several friends who have the same car gone,” Samantha McCray said. Her car has been stolen twice.

Car break-ins another problem with a ripple effect. Thousands of guns continue to be stolen out of cars, and now, police say they’re seeing the most guns ever on the streets.

“Our officers are going out there every day knowing that they are going to encounter armed people,” Memphis Police Asst. Chief Don Crowe said.

Major violent crime increased 7 percent in 2023 compared to the year before. Robberies were up 20 percent. Homicides broke a record.

Memphis murder map: Homicides in 2023

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital reported a record-breaking year for juveniles being shot. Doctors say ten of them left paralyzed because of it.

“Terrible. It’s what keeps me up at night,” Trauma Services Medical Director Regan Williams said. “Having to see these children suffer after they were paralyzed. We expect these children to go back to school and be happy and be part of society.”

It has Memphis Shelby County Schools begging for a ceasefire. Since August 2022 through mid-January, they say more than 20 students were lost to violence.

“This is a wake-up call for me that this is not normal. It’s not normal to sit and cry at the hospital with a parent. It’s not normal,” interim school Superintendent Toni Williams said.

For months, WREG Investigators have uncovered and pored through the data, police reports and court records. We talked to victims and our top crime fighters to figure out how we got here and how do find the best path forward.

“There are so many tools out there. There’s so many plans shown to work across the country, but we aren’t doing it,” Memphis city councilmember Jerri Green said.

What is happening? Fingers are being pointed, as many question whether the systems and laws are working.

“There has to be balance, and right now, a lot of people are of the opinion that balance is way out of wack,” Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Christopher Craft said.

Top leaders believe that has to be a fine balance of addressing root causes like poverty and education while intervening and offering services. Also, getting more help from the state and federal government while implementing better policing, hiring more officers and investing more in our youth

“What we have to do in our community is introduce other options to them,” Memphis Mayor Paul Young said.

The ideas are there, wheels are in motion, and people are ready to fight back. But will it be enough? Are we focusing on what’s working and addressing what’s not?

All questions we work to answer in a series of stories that air next week.

We start Sunday after the Super Bowl with a hot topic: The bail system. Why some say it’s working, but others say it’s a mess.

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