Strickland asks for federal help to combat gangs

Mayor wants federal funding to stop gangs
Published: Jan. 23, 2017 at 3:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2017 at 7:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - After a violent weekend in Memphis that left five people dead, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement addressed to those responsible.

Among the victims of the weekend's violence are two 15-year-old boys. One was killed outside a house party; the other was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Strickland called the criminals "cowards" who use weapons instead of words to solve conflict.

"My message to any of you who illegally carry or use guns: You are the problem in Memphis," Strickland wrote. "You are hurting our efforts to bring jobs and opportunity to our community. But you will not succeed in tearing us down."

Strickland said the city is implementing a multiple-prong approach to reduce crime, including stronger policing and more youth programming.

Strickland said he's reached out to the Feds to help solve Memphis's gang problem.

That word Monday comes on the heels of a violent weekend in Memphis where 5 people were shot and killed, two of those homicides were 15 year old boys.

"I just want people to know that we are not accepting this as a level that we are going to live with," said Strickland. "Memphis like many big cities has a significant gang problem. it is the number one driver of crime it is the number one driver of homicides."

Strickland said he asked for federal assistance last week while on a trip in Washington, D.C.

"I talked to some federal officials about trying to get some federal agents, FBI or ATF to help supplement our local law enforcement on our multi agency gang task force to try to really penetrate this gang problem that we have," he said.

Strickland said cities like New Orleans have received federal help to fight gangs.

Statistics from 2016 showed that roughly a third of homicides in Memphis were gang-related. But Memphis Shelby Crime Commission president Bill Gibbons said the number is likely higher than that.

Gibbons notes that he believes gangs in Memphis are now more violent than in years past, with more guns on the streets.

"What our gang activity is creating is a culture of violence in individuals who see violence as a way of resolving conflict, and that's our big challenge to try and change that," said Gibbons.

Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings also had strong words for about the homicides in the Bluff City.

"I will continue to say, guns in the wrong hands will only lead to someone getting killed or injured. We cannot continue traveling down this same path. During this same time last year we were handling 16 homicides. Today, we are yet again at 16 homicides for 2017. We must pull together as a community and stop these senseless killings," said Director Rallings. "Gangs, guns and drugs are the root cause of these senseless killings. It must stop! Stop getting involved with gangs and associating yourself with those who participate in criminal behavior. If you know someone is planning to commit a crime, report it. Stop condoning criminals that are destroying our community. Don't let your home or neighborhood be a safe haven for those who choose to be on the wrong side of the law."

Sixteen people have been killed in Memphis in the first three weeks of 2017.

"We will find those responsible for these murders. We will not stop until each and every one of these suspects are in custody. Our Homicide Investigators, members from Organized Crime, and our Multi-Agency Gang Unit will not rest until these criminals are behind bars," Strickland said.

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