Rallings notes slight uptick in violent crime during pandemic

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 15, 2020 2:55 PM CT | Published: April 15, 2020 2:36 PM CT

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said Wednesday, April 15, that violent crime is up slightly in the city since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the police department has launched a sting operation to combat the uptick.

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Operation Spring Cleaning 2020 launched Saturday, April 11, and police have made nine arrests, recovering guns, drugs and stolen merchandise, Rallings said during the daily COVID-19 press conference.

“We are definitely concerned about it (the crime uptick), and that’s why we launched Operation Spring Cleaning 2020. Operation Spring Cleaning 2020 will focus on violent crime and our hotspots,” Rallings said.

He said homicides are up, with 52 compared to 46 last year in the same time period for a 13% increase.

Rallings said while robberies of individuals are down, robberies of businesses are up and he asked that business owners “pay attention to the operation” and call police if they see any suspicious activity.

Carjackings are also on the rise. Rallings said people are leaving their cars running and the keys inside.

While violent crime is up, Rallings did not provide statistical data on how much. He said other crimes are down.

As of April 13, MPD said Part One crimes – including homicides, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson – are down 0.8%. Auto thefts and non-residential thefts are up. 

With families being at home, advocates worry that domestic violence incidents will increase. But MPD said it has not seen an increase since the March 24 Safer At Home order went into effect.

In March, the latest numbers available, the department handled 1,214 cases while during the same period in 2019, the domestic violence unit handled 1,219 domestic violence cases. That represents a 0.4 percent decrease this year.

“Our rapes, robberies of individuals are down, but but if there is one victim, that’s one victim too many,” Rallings said.

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He also said MPD continues to answer calls and discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on first responders.

As of April 15, Rallings said 22 officers and six MPD civilian employees have tested positive for the virus. Eighty-six MPD employees are quarantined and 147 have reported back to work.

Rallings said 20 Memphis Fire Department employees had tested positive as of Wednesday, and 234 have returned to work.

“So you can see, MPD and MFD and our other first responder communities have been impacted, but we have still been able to maintain our level of service,” Rallings said.

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In addition to handling crime, MPD has been dealing with calls about people violating the Safer At Home order.

Rallings said MPD has received 388 calls for the month, an average of a little less than 27 calls each day. They had eight complaint calls April 14, and those were four businesses and four for crowds.

He said MPD routes most of the business complaint calls to code enforcement. The Health Department handles calls about churches or places of worship violating the order.

“Our 911 call volume is pretty much unchanged compared to last year. We do see some differences in the number of our traffic stops, our alarms and our traffic crashes,” Rallings said.

Rallings said even amid the pandemic, MPD has a recruiting class of 61 at the police academy who are set to graduate July 23.

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Michael Rallings MPD coronavirus COVID-19
Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones covers criminal justice issues and general assignment news for The Daily Memphian. She previously was a reporter at The Commercial Appeal.

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