The city of Memphis saw substantial declines in homicides, rapes and aggravated assaults in 2022, according to data released by the Memphis Police Department Tuesday.
The city saw at least a 12.7% decline in homicides from 2021 to 2022, according to MPD data. MPD said in a presentation the number of homicides declined 16.2% year over year.
However, the department said there were 346 homicides in 2021 and 302 total homicides in 2022, which when measured is a decline of 12.7%. It was unclear where the department’s calculation of a 16.2% decline came from.
The department reported 303 murders in 2021 and 43 additional homicides, whether they were justified or negligent homicides. In 2022, there were 247 murders and 55 other homicides. The decline in murders from 2021 to 2022 is an 18.5% decrease.
Police Chief C.J. Davis attributed the decline to arrests made by MPD of certain gang members and the formation of a unit last year that tracks down fugitives. She also credited violence intervention programs underway in the city.
“We had some really significant arrests last year that we think contributed to some of the aggravated assaults,” Davis said. “We think that we’ve made some progress as it relates to some of the gang activity in the city.”
Davis declined to say whom exactly the department arrested or what gangs they were allegedly involved with.
MPD also said in its presentation that rapes and aggravated assaults had declined by 3.8% and 9.7% respectively.
The decline in homicides, while significant, comes after the city set a record for homicides in 2020 and then broke that record in 2021 after declining ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. Davis expressed hope the city could become less violent and that violence intervention programs could continue to bear fruit.
“We knew that there were bad actors out on the streets that were continuing to commit crimes, aggravated assaults, gang activity and whatnot. We also have other elements in the city working towards reducing violent crime and my Group Violence Intervention Team. We’ve been working really close with them on calls and ensuring that individuals that would-be actors are confronted in a way where we can give them some resources to do something other than commit crimes,” Davis said.
On Tuesday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in an interview that the decline was not “mission accomplished” and questioned whether the city was becoming less violent. He said that given the heavy rate of property crime, the public did not feel safer.
“I think the data would show that we are slightly less violent because overall the violent crimes went down 4%. That’s obviously not enough. And people are not feeling it. And I think part of the reason they’re not feeling it is because it’s not a huge decrease. Plus property crime has dramatically increased,” Strickland said.
He said, “I’m happy that we’re moving in the right direction. But we’re still higher than pre-pandemic numbers….We’ve got to keep working hard. There’s absolutely no reason to celebrate those numbers. No reason to put a ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign up. We’ve still got to be focused on driving down violent crime.”
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Why Memphis homicides fell in 2022