Crime Commission report shows murders, aggravated assault increased during COVID-19 pandemic

MEMPHIS,Tenn — A sobering report showed a staggering increase in violent crimes.

According to the latest Memphis Shelby Crime Commission report, violent crimes are up nearly 30 percent in Memphis  and 26 percent countywide.

The report showed that the major violent crime rate was actually dropping in the city and county after the first quarter of the year but then the pandemic hit and from April to June, the crime stats spiked.

“You cannot stay shut in for too long and so you know after a while it builds up, the stress builds up,” said Charlie Caswell.

Caswell is a community leader in Frayser and Legacy of Legends CDC executive director.

He believes the stress and the uncertainty of the pandemic is having an impact on the growing crime rate in the city.

“The courts opened back up and they’re talking about evictions, and these utility bills still need to get paid all that stress in a home can bring about such violence that then turns where the children are experiencing that violence,” he said.

During the first half of the year, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission found the number of reported offenses involving guns increased by 23 percent in Memphis and 22 percent countywide.

The Memphis Police Department said there have been 135 murders so far this year compared to 97 the same time last year and in 63 of those cases, the victim and the suspect knew each other.

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“Sadly you see it in our community where you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and I think all of these things are adding up so the lack of opportunity that people can’t go to some jobs and the opportunity of someone who may have something that they can try to take from them,” said Caswell.

Caswell said churches have been stopping by with food drives but he said there’s also a need for more mental health support.

He’s been offering free mental health checkups for children.

“Sadly we have been seeing children come in for our mental health check-up talking about they were considering suicide so the need right there, so I know that’s stress on the parent who feels like there’s not much they can do about it themselves,” said Caswell.

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Caswell said those free mental health check-ups are free for any family in the Memphis area and they’re working to expand those services to other communities like Westwood and South Memphis.

In a written statement, Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich said the following about the report:

 “Any citizen seeing these increases in murder and aggravated assault should be disturbed.  In some of these cases, the victim is the intended target. In others, the victim is an innocent bystander. Either way, too many families are grieving the tragic, senseless, deaths of their loved ones. The police will investigate. Our office will prosecute.  But until there are fewer members of our community embracing violent behavior, little will change.”