Former Memphis Mayor: Crime rate is 'a black problem'

Former Memphis mayor: Crime rate is 'a black problem'
Updated: Dec. 14, 2016 at 6:24 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The City of Memphis is seeing a record number of homicides this year. The last time the city saw this many homicides was in 1993 and Willie Herenton was mayor.

Herenton said the homicide rate in Memphis now is at a critical level and the fix to the problem is much larger than the elected officials.

"It's like old news being replayed," Herenton said.

In 1993, Memphis set a record with 213 homicides. Herenton said a special task force, in the early 90s, helped examine the crime. Years later his administration saw a crime dip as a result of MPD's Blue Crush.

Blue Crush targeted drug trafficking and crime monopolies. Although he said additional police officers would help the situation, they will not be able to get to the root causes of the violence.

"I'm going to irritate some people when I make this statement: This is a black problem," Herenton said. "This is a black problem that uniquely impacts the fabric of the black community."

Herenton said Memphis needs the same thing it needed in 1993.

"What we need in Memphis--we needed it in 1993 but we really need it today--is a massive community engagement initiative like we've never seen before," Herenton said.

He said drugs, gangs, and hopelessness have taken over the streets, and he is calling on people to act and to do it fast.

"What I see is a lack of a sense of urgency," Herenton said. "I don't see the black community embracing this as being our challenge."

As for officials like Mayor Jim Strickland or MPD Director Mike Rallings, he said it's not fair to put the homicide record on them.

"I don't care who the mayor is. The mayor cannot take full responsibility for the crime wave in this city," Herenton said.

Herenton said he is speaking at Strickland's prayer breakfast on New Year's Day. He has plans to announce a community engagement program at the breakfast.

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