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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

Friday, January 17, 2020

United States Attorney D. Michael Dunavant Statement 2019 Memphis Crime Data and Violent Crime Reduction Strategies and Operations

Memphis, TN -We are pleased to join together today as the leaders of federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies in Memphis and Shelby County to announce the crime statistics for 2019 in the City of Memphis. Special thanks goes to Deputy Chief Don Crowe at the Memphis Police Department for compiling and making these crime statistics available for our use and analysis on a regular basis. As you will see from the reported numbers, we are pleased to announce that overall Part I crime decreased by 6.3% in all precincts of the city, and in most major categories. Violent crime also decreased by 8.2% in 2019, adding to a two-year total decrease of 13.1% since 2017.

While none of us can take individual credit for these positive public safety outcomes, these numbers represent the collective work, vision, collaboration, and coordination of resources, specialties, and priorities of all of the law-enforcement agencies assembled here today. These significant decreases in major violent crime categories demonstrate that our policies, initiatives, and task force models are working to target and remove the most violent and repeat offenders from our community, which in turn improves overall public safety for law abiding citizens.

Three years ago, all of these agencies committed to participation in the Public Safety Partnership, also known as PSP, where the Department of Justice provided training and technical assistance for us to develop data-driven best practices and coordinated policies to drive down violent crime. We are now starting to see the positive fruits of our labors, and these numbers are more than just tough on crime or smart on crime rhetoric. These quantitative measures represent real lives saved, real victims avoided, and better quality of life for citizens, neighborhoods, and businesses in Memphis. To quote the Mayor, Memphis has Momentum in many areas, and now that momentum includes violent and overall crime reduction in a sustained and meaningful way. The anecdotal stories of crime that we often tell are now confirmed by the statistical results of our labor.

Reducing violent crime requires comprehensive and collaborative strategies. It also takes courage from all law enforcement agencies to find solutions that work, and commitment to follow through with them with sustainable approaches and long-term investments. This group of law enforcement leaders has done just that.

When armed carjacking incidents spiked in Memphis and Shelby County over 65% in late 2017, we launched the Carjacking Initiative to coordinate investigations and prosecutions, and as a result, carjacking incidents have decreased this past year by 12.1%.

The FBI Safe Streets Task Force has gotten back to the basics of response to and investigation of armed bank and business robberies, dramatically increasing the clearance rate of those cases. As a result, the incident rate of business robberies declined by 25.8% in 2019.

In August, 2019, the U.S. Marshals Service conducted a joint initiative with all of these agencies known as "Operation Bluff City Blues", which arrested 214 fugitives, many of whom had outstanding warrants for violent crimes. That successful operation included a total of 79 identified gang members, 65 individuals for aggravated assault, 34 individuals for homicide, 69 individuals for weapons offenses, and 40 individuals for drug offenses.

Over the last 2 years, the Department of Justice has invested resources into Memphis to combat violent crime, and we are using them effectively. The ATF has established a Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) to use the technology of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to better respond to, solve, and correlate shooting incidents. The ATF has also added new agents to the Gun Strike Force, who is working with the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) to disrupt and dismantle criminal gangs and remove violent offenders from the streets of Memphis.

Because we know that violent crime is often associated with and motivated by drug trafficking activities, we have partnered with the DEA and the Memphis Police Department Organized Crime Unit in our Heroin Initiative to identify and stop the source of supply, punish and deter heroin and fentanyl dealers, prevent new users, refer addicts to treatment, deploy Narcan to hotspots, and save lives.

Our reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Task force is continuing their great work in coordinating and prioritizing firearms offenses for aggressive prosecutions, which take guns out of the hands of dangerous and violent offenders.

In a new approach led by the District Attorney’s Office that is already paying dividends, we have fully committed to "Operation Comeback," a focused deterrence crime-reduction strategy in which carefully selected high-risk offenders are advised of swift, severe and certain punishment for continued criminal behavior, while at the same time being offered social services such as job training, education, housing assistance, drug and alcohol treatment, counseling, life skills and anger management.

And finally, our newest initiative, "Operation Relentless Pursuit", will surge new federal resources and agents into Memphis to further reduce violent crime. As a result of federal grant funding, Memphis and Shelby County will be able to hire more officers, obtain new technology, training, vehicles, and other personnel, and assign more officers to federal task forces to effectively target violent offenders and hot spots. The first phase of the operation is being led by the U.S. Marshals Service, and the name of the operation speaks directly to its proactive nature and sustained duration.

Our return to proven law enforcement policies and our adoption of new initiatives and resources is working. Here in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we have dramatically increased our output in the number of firearms, violent crime, drug and gang prosecutions over the last 2 years, and the welcome outcome has been improved public safety. Putting the right people in prison incapacitates the most violent offenders, upholds the rule of law, deters criminal conduct with a strong message of significant consequences, and makes us all safer.

While many persistent violent crime challenges remain and much work is still needed in these areas, we are optimistic about these downward trends in crime, and we look forward to continuing to implement effective strategies with resolve and commitment to public safety in Memphis and Shelby County.


Cherri Green Public Affairs (901) 544-4231
Updated January 17, 2020