Violent crime continues to be a problem in Memphis and Shelby County, up almost a quarter in 2020

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new report dives deeper into something we already knew about 2020: major violent crimes in Memphis and Shelby County were on the rise.

In 2020, Memphis set a record with 332 people violently killed in the city.

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On Wednesday, the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission released a new report echoing the troubling trend.

“It’s very clear our remaining big challenge is violent crime,” Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission said. “We have had a major uptick. But I should add this was a trend nationwide. Memphis was not alone in that.

The numbers, based on preliminary figures from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, show in Memphis, the violent crime rate went up almost a quarter at 24.3 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. In Shelby County, the increase was 23.1 percent.

“When you break down the violent crime figures, it’s really the murders and aggravated assaults that have gone up,” Gibbons said.

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Gibbons said murders and aggravated assaults often involve people who know each other. He said so many people staying at home due to the pandemic could have played a part in the numbers.

“Certainly, the argument can be made that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress levels among family members, friends and acquaintances and that is causing the uptick,” he said.

The uptick doesn’t come as a surprise to many Mid-South locals.

“There’s more hatred than anything,” Patrick Townsend said. “Folks need to get back to church.”

“I think the virus is affecting everyone’s work, and people have too much free time in their houses,” Rossy Moore said.

But there is some good news. The figures show major property crime and overall crime continued a steady downward trend in 2020.

Compared to 2019, the report says the overall crime rate dropped 1.5 percent in Memphis and 2.7 percent in Shelby County.