Memphis police explain increase in murder rate - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis police explain increase in murder rate

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The Memphis police director is spending his first week on the job in 2012 learning from the city's homicide statistics in 2011.

The average number annual of homicides in Memphis during the last six years is 149. In 2010, the city experienced an inexplicable drop to 112. Though, in 2011, the number was back up with 147 homicides.

Along with hearing about Memphis blues and BBQ, the rest of the country hears about the city's high crime rate, a problem Memphis Police Director Tony Armstrong is working to improve upon as he moves into his second calendar year as head of the department.

"We feel that if you target youth violence, inevitably you will see a reduction in crime," he said.

Youth crime is a major problem in Memphis. A look at the homicide numbers for 2011 show out of the 147 murders, 48 percent were committed by suspects under 25-years-old. People between the ages of 26 and 35 committed 21 percent of the city's murders. Victims younger than 25 accounted for 25 percent of the total and 26 percent of victims were between 26 and 35.

"Our kids are dropping out of school," Armstrong said. "Our kids are looking to gangs just so they can have a sense of belonging because our family structure has broken down."

The numbers also show the city's murders typically aren't random. Sixty-eight percent of the murders in 2011 were committed by people related or acquainted with each other. Forty-two percent of them started with a physical altercation and seventeen percent were domestic violence related.

"Our homicides are not out of control," Armstrong said. "We don't have a group of people that we are going, ‘Oh my God, they are taking over the city.'"

As for gang violence, 36 out of the 147 homicides had suspects or victims that were gang affiliated, though the department can't prove if gang activity led to the crimes.

As we start 2012, Armstrong said what the department's strategy is working. He cites the mayor's youth violence initiative, community policing and the metro gang unit as programs he hopes will reduce crime in the city.

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