Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says crime remains the top issue. The Mayor held his first state of the city speech since taking office last year. Local 24’s Mike Matthews was there.
You’ve probably seen that classic movie from the 1930’s, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” If they remade that movie today, they would call it “Mr. Strickland Goes To Frayser.”
Mayor Strickland decided to do his very first state of the city speech in a Frayser church. Nothing fancy. Just a place where real people gather to meet, and talk, and pray for this city. State of the city talks have been highly choreographed events in fancy locations in years past.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland decided to do his first in a church in Frayser, where real people sit and meet and pray for Memphis. “We are taking real, tangible action for the future of Memphis,” Mayor Strickland told the audience, “… and we are getting results.”
The man who ran for mayor with a promise that he would attack violent crime is well aware that a lot of the good things that have happened in his first year are overshadowed by a record high homicide rate.
Violent crime was up more than 3%.
So there are plans in place to fight the violence, that he and Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings have been working on. Mayor Strickland told the folks packed into the Impact Baptist Church meeting room, “Director Rallings has created a violent crimes bureau and its up and active. It’s a reorganization that provides a more focused investigation of our most serious crimes.”
There are other anti-crime plans coming, according to the Mayor, who says, “I’m also proud to announce today we are doubling what we do in street level gang intervention.”
They will open libraries for longer hours starting on Memorial Day.
They will offer special programs to keep young folks busy.
All because of that one big problem. “Crime is the number one issue,” the Mayor admits. ” I never run from that. We hit it head on every single week. We’ve not gotten the results we want. I know most people understand its going to take some time.”
Another thing that will take time is hiring more police officers. The Mayor says 31 are scheduled to graduate from the police academy Friday night. What he didn’t say is more than 40 are scheduled to retire from the force in the spring, so the department continues to lose officers.
A new question is starting to come up, and it is important. Just how many more police officers does Memphis need? For the last year everybody from the top down has said the city needs at least 500 more officers, there are roughly 1970 or so working right now. But that figure of more than 2,400 came from a study, paid with your tax money, conducted about 7 years ago. City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd says “I think it’s very important for us to explore and see what are compliment should be. If it’s a 2,400 officer compliment, or maybe a 2,100 officer compliment. But that hasn’t been explained since 2010.”
Mayor Strickland is open for a study on what the city needs, saying “We know its more than what we have now. But we’re committed to doing some kind of analysis, is it 2,200, 2,300, 2,400, 2,500. We don’t know, but we know it’s more than what we have.”