Walkin' in Memph...and DUCK!!

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Back in September, I used a horrific murder in Memphis, TN, as the starting point for a look at a what had become of a city I’d truly loved being stationed in.


In the pre-dawn dark this morning, runners in Memphis are completing the morning jog Eliza Fletcher began on September 1, but never got to finish. As the 34-year-old kindergarten teacher ran down a section of Central Avenue around 4 a.m., she was abducted, forced into a vehicle, brutally assaulted, and slain by a recently released serial criminal.

The crime statistics in the areas we – my Marine girlfriends and I – used to wander freely, in the dark of night and wee hours were shocking and heartbreaking.

…We women Marines would go in a smallish group and really enjoy ourselves. Overton Square was humming with college kids. It had promise, and it came to fruition. (I don’t know what happened. Beale Street now comes up flagged on Yelp as “not safe” along with links for “shoot-out” news reports.)

Gawd, that place was SO FUN to be young in circa 1980/81.

A new, Soros-type DA had just been elected when my piece went up. I hadn’t really given Memphis much thought since, with elections, the economy twisting in the wind and my favorite war on anything Green to pursue.

Then, last night, major dad called my attention to this little vignette of life in Memphis.


My LORD. The presence of mind of that amazing woman – Yolanda Cooper-Sutton – calm, cool collected and utterly resigned, utterly conditioned to respond automatically like soldier in a war zone to the carnage going on around her. I wouldn’t doubt she may well have saved that camera crew’s lives. If you aren’t ready to duck when you hear the sounds – if you don’t even know what those sounds are – your head and torso are up where the rounds are flying through.


Yolanda, bless her heart, immediately knew what to do.

No American citizen should live somewhere where such knowledge is instinctual. That in itself is criminal.

…Cooper-Sutton said it was just “instinct” to know to duck and cover, calmly, in hopes of avoiding gunshots.

“This is something very common around Memphis,” she said. “You can be riding down the highway, the interstate, anywhere, and gunshots. I really can’t tell you. I just know, in that moment, and you play this moment over and over and over again in your head, because we do live in the city like we do right now, and the increase in gun violence and the drive-bys, at any moment, anything can happen.”

“You prepare yourself mentally. Should we be in that act or ready to be in that mode?

No, but this is where we are right now,” she continued.


Where they are is, frankly, terrifying and no way to live. Whatever new DA Steve Mulroy’s plans, his tenure has certainly started off with a bang. Literally bangs.

The University of Memphis and the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission released new statistics Tuesday that they called “disturbing.”

Major property crimes, including burglaries and vehicle and property thefts, shot up 43% in Memphis and 42% in Shelby County in the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period a year earlier.

That was driven by a 155% increase in vehicle thefts, the commission said. Overall major property crimes were up 72% since hitting a low point in 2016.

…Memphis Police report 81 murders in the first three months of 2023, after ruling some cases as negligent or justifiable homicides. In the same period in 2022, that number was 60.


Some records were not meant to be broken.

Screencap WREG

It seems the “youths” are a good part of the problem. Go figure.

…More than 70% of violent crimes now involve guns, compared to 40% in 2011. Juveniles, sometimes under the supervision of adults, are driving the increase in vehicle thefts and break-ins, said Bill Gibbons, president of the crime commission.

There is growing concern over the level of brazenness of much of our juvenile crime,” said Ben Adams, chairman of the board of the crime commission.

The driver of the minivan leading this parade of police vehicles was suspected of shooting 3 people.

The Memphis Police Department has myriad problems. Besides being shorthanded and, especially after the Tyree Nichols beating, a reputation for brutality, they don’t seem able to solve many crimes. That might well account for the skyrocketing statistics and the brazenness of youths.

If you commit a crime in Memphis, odds are you’re going to get away with it.

The “clearance rate” is a standard measure of police effectiveness used by the FBI. It measures the ratio of crimes reported to arrests made. Crimes cleared by “exceptional means,” such as when the perpetrator is known to police but died before they could be arrested, are also included.

In 2021, the most recent year for which numbers are available from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Statistics Unit, the Memphis Police Department’s clearance rate for all reported crimes was 22 percent — less than half the national average of 54 percent. For murder, the MPD’s clearance rate was 38 percent. For forcible rape, it was 17.8 percent. For theft from motor vehicles, the rate was 3 percent.


Any thrill seeking gambler would love those odds. DA Mulroy says it’s going to take at least a year and a half to “change the culture,” as if that was possible, guaranteed to work or they’re even going in the direction of the change needed. What if it’s completely jacked up in a year…er… more jacked up?

Some of the businesses in the city are already saying they don’t have time for the city, police department and DA to get their act together – they’re dying from the toll crime is taking on them NOW.

Instead of being a recipe for success, local restaurants and the community are facing potential disaster.

…Warmer temperatures should mean better sales for restaurants, but this is not proving to be the case in Memphis. Several restaurants tell ABC24 they have seen sales suffer as the number of car thefts increase — over twice as much as they were this time last year.

“Customers and long-time customers are saying that they’re afraid to come out — they don’t want their car broken into,” said Mark Miller, MRA President.

Several customers have adjusted where, and more importantly when, they go out to eat.

“We are seeing a difference in our sales figures, particularly late at night,” says Ryan Madgett, Tin Roof Director of Risk Management.

Mulroy is also pushing back against insinuations that the Shelby County DA sets bail. I guess they do it differently there, which is really interesting. “Judicial commissioners” are the ones who decides if a defendant gets bail and how much.


…Mulroy also said that he believes that judicial commissioners, who set bail, might need to look at a defendant’s history as well.

“I think in most cases, [judicial commissioners] are [looking at histories], but I can’t say for sure they always do,” he said. “I think that’s their practice, and it certainly ought to be their practice because it’s something that they can do and should do. As a practical matter, because of the volume of cases, I think there is concern.”

In light of Harris’ release before having a bail hearing, Mulroy said he might be in favor of higher bail amounts for people who are arrested repeatedly.

“The only adjustment I would be inclined to explore right now, because this new system has been in effect for only a couple of months, is to encourage the judicial commissioners to lean more into unaffordable bail amounts early on if the person has a repeat criminal history,” he said. “They can be secure in the knowledge that the defendant will have his or her day in court within 72 hours.”

Elected officials and high-profile Memphians have inaccurately insinuated or stated that a function of a district attorney’s office is to set bail for accused suspects. This is not true.

As of this moment, while Chicago may hold the murder capitol title, almost across the board Memphis is proud in possession of the “Most Dangerous City in the U.S” crown. For a town that depends on tourism for a fair amount of its revenue, nationally viral videos like Miss Yolanda’s and a reputation for lurking peril during everyday activities will stifle those visitor numbers.


Memphis now has mayoral campaigns kicking into high gear, with an election scheduled for 5 October 2023. It will be interesting to listen to candidate rhetoric as well as watch what DA Mulroy does going forward, and how the MPD evolves.


Do they stay or do they go?

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