Violence in Memphis: Bigger than Crimes and Statistics

Posted on October 26, 2014


By: Ashley Dill

5DE13890-BAC0-4FBB-BDF7170CF518DB39Since the beginning of the year there has been a spike in Memphis, TN’s crime rates, motivating Memphis leaders and the Memphis Police Department to seek out the problems and find new solutions to crime in the city.  City leaders are struggling to solve the issue of rising crime rates not only in the city of Memphis, but Shelby County specifically.

Memphis Daily News reports that the rate of major violent crimes has gone up 7.7 percent since 2013 and there has been an 8.1 percent increase in violent crimes in Shelby County. Such crimes include murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robberies. These crimes began to spike drastically in March, 2014. While crimes of domestic violence and major property crimes have decreased since last year, other major violent crimes have all increased by 6.5 percent or more. A concerning statistic is that the murder crime rate has had a whopping 10.5 percent increase since last year.

These striking statistics have left Memphis’ Mayor Wharton, Shelby County School’s superintendent Dorsey Hopson, and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong searching for solutions to the crime spike together as leaders in the Memphis community. Superintendent Hopson has become an important figure because of his responsibility in dealing with major violent crimes that feature school-aged youth mobs. These violent crimes include the Poplar Plaza mob attack, which was spread through a graphically violent video, and the mob attack that occurred at Peabody Avenue and Bellevue Boulevard after a high school football game, just three weeks after the first Poplar attack.

Mayor Wharton has suggested that high school football games be moved to daytime hours and that community centers remain open for longer hours. However, these ideas have been perceived by the public as overly simplistic. The Memphis Police Department has launched what is called “Operation Blue Storm” in eight zones of Memphis where the largest spikes in crime have been reported. This launch has reallocated one hundred cops in teams of twenty-five to work in these problematic areas.

While there have been changes made in protocol, there seems to be something larger at play.

According Mark Sauser, a parent of one of the teens injured at the Poplar Plaza mob attack, the mobs are a result of “what happens to children who are not getting the structure and the care and concern that they have a universal right to expect from their families… I think in the past we have focused on money, programs, and hiring more polices. I don’t think this is something we can spend ourselves out of this time.”

Mayor Wharton took a similar stance to Sauser, urging parents of the teens who committed these violent crimes to come forward under the threat of harsher consequences against both the teens involved in the attack and the parents themselves. Eleven of those charged in the attack were brought in by their parents after Wharton’s ultimatum. Wharton has since been emphasizing the need for parental control and responsibility to keep teenagers busy and out of trouble.

One problem with this story is that it has been told so many times before. Parents are not parenting, and as a result, their children and teenagers learn bad habits and are influenced and peer pressured by those in the same situation. This is not a story about race and the next generation of rebellious and violent teens wreaking havoc on their cities and neighborhoods; it is something much bigger. This goes back to parents  creating a vicious cycle of indifference toward their children, which creates a sense of rebellion and an urgency to do something that stands out. In this case, the end result is unwarranted violence.

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