Officers see an uptick in crime as they work to stay safe during COVID-19 pandemic, MPD says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Police officers wearing face masks and gloves to protect their safety and keeping a distance while trying to solve crimes like car theft and murder is the new normal in law enforcement.

FOX13 spoke to the Memphis Police Director about how officers are fighting crime while trying to stay safe.

A virus that can kill has not eliminated all criminal behavior from Memphis. Violence and thievery have increased in some crimes.

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Carjackings have increased 90 percent from the beginning of this year to now, according to Memphis police.

“Even during a crisis, there are individuals who may try to prey on others and take advantage of the situation,” said MPD Director Michael Rallings.

While overall crime has inched up, Rallings told FOX13 certain types of crimes have spiked compared to this time last year.

  • Business burglaries: up 20%
  • Shoplifting: up 8%
  • Auto Thefts: up 31%
  • Carjackings: up 90%

FOX13 asked the director why the staggering increase for this type of crime.

“We may be engulfed on our phones, now we are distracted with COVID, maybe adjusting their masks but we want people to be aware of their surroundings,” said Rallings.

According to the director, shoplifting and car break-ins could be tied to people out of work and out of cash. But Rallings said there is no explanation that makes sense for why the number of homicides is up 17 percent.

“It is still the same story. We have people with conflict resolution,” he said.

Fighting crime in the age of the pandemic adds new stressors to the job. Rallings said his officers have to wear personal protective gear when investigating crimes.

“I will say it is different and it does present a new challenge, but our folks are out there doing it,” he said

Rallings said even with the pandemic his department is on the offensive. They just started Operation Spring Cleaning looking to make arrests and confiscate guns and drugs.

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