Micaela A Watts, Memphis Commercial Appeal, December 4, 2020
At least 300 times this year, one Memphian’s life has been snuffed out by someone else, in acts both intentional and through negligence.
Around 9 p.m. Friday, Memphis police responded to a shooting call at the intersection of Kimball Avenue and Prescott Road. One male victim was found dead at the scene.
Of the 300 homicides, 262 are classified as murders, a category which excludes some killings like when a homeowner is justified in killing an intruder.
The number of homicides is the highest in recorded history for the city. In late August, Memphis Police Department Deputy Chief Samuel Hines warned of the possibility of a record-shattering year, describing how the unique pressures of the pandemic created ” a perfect storm” that enabled consistent violence.
The path to the 300th homicide was marked by repeated pleas from officials for increased communication with law enforcement and their tip lines. Millions in federal funding flowed into the city from the Department of Justice for task force initiatives aimed at combating gang-related violence and federal firearms offenses.
The year was also marked by dozens of homicides of minors, including many under the age of 12. Many of the youngest victims were murdered, others died from neglect, and at least one was killed in a shooting ruled as justified.
Police Director Michael Rallings repeatedly called for a level of outrage from communities that equaled the civil unrest aimed at law enforcement as the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor consumed the nation throughout late spring and early summer.
Some outrage did materialize during a Nov. 14 “Unity Walk Against Gun Violence,” when hundreds of community members walked alongside representatives from law enforcement non-profits that focus on anti-violence work.
Shelby County Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center Director Sandy Bromley said the walk was “only the beginning” of efforts to combat the rate of violent crime.
In her day-to-day work overseeing a three-person team working with a steady stream of survivors, Bromley said some of the most common causes of violence mirror what’s happening in the rest of the country. Major cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are also experiencing homicide rates that have either surpassed, or are close to surpassing, previous records.
“It feels like everyone is on edge,” she said.
In some cases, Bromley said, young adults and teenagers locked out of school and work “who literally don’t have anything to do, and so unfortunately sometimes they turn to the wrong things to do.”