City leaders look for answers to cut record 228 homicides in 2016

City leaders look for answers to cut record 228 homicides in 2016
Published: Jan. 1, 2017 at 5:21 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2017 at 6:52 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Police Department investigated 228 homicides in 2016.

Of that number, 210 were criminal homicides and 18 were justified.

MPD said 159 of the 228 homicides have been solved, meaning the solve rate for the year was approximately 70 percent.

MPD added that 112 of the homicides, or roughly half, were committed by someone the victim knew. Thirty-two of the killings were domestic violence-related.

The last homicide of 2016 happened Saturday morning on New Year's Eve. No arrests have been made.

City leaders said crime reduction efforts in 2017 will be aimed at getting people out of gangs as a way to reduce the violence.

With Memphis Police Department understaffed by hundreds of officers amid soaring homicide numbers, Mayor Jim Strickland said Saturday that two planned police recruit classes in 2017 are a priority.

"I hope next year, we will start seeing an increase in the number of police officers we have," said Strickland.

Strickland said MPD will also put a bullseye on gang activity in Memphis, saying gangs are behind 2016's historic level of killings.

"Next year, we are going to put more focus in the police department on the gangs and the gang units, because they are really driving a lot of the homicides."

Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons said there are new efforts in the works to get those in gangs out.

The "Group Violence Intervention" is modeled after a program in Boston called Ceasefire. Call-ins would be held where gang members are gathered in a room and given an ultimatum. Details of the program in Memphis are still being formalized.

"I think you're going to see some real progress on this in 2017," said Gibbons. "The idea is very simple. But it is also a very intensive effort. That is to communicate to gang members that violence will not be tolerated."

Gibbons said the members are offered an alternative and help to turn their lives around. He said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich and law enforcement are taking the lead on this strategy, noting that the call-ins must be frequent.

"It can't be one call, and that's it," said Gibbons, "It's going to be ongoing."

Gibbons said gun violence is up 11 percent year-to-year, meaning drastic steps in 2017 are needed.

"Violent crime is our major challenge," he said.

Discussions about the violence are continuing into the new year at all levels of government. Wednesday morning, Shelby County Commissioners are expected to discuss a large-scale violence reduction strategy implemented in New Orleans, called "NOLA for life."

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