Comparing crime in Nashville to crime in Memphis - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Comparing crime in Nashville to crime in Memphis

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Nashville's new $40 million crime lab and police precinct (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News) Nashville's new $40 million crime lab and police precinct (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News)
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NASHVILLE and MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

How does Memphis stack up against Nashville when it comes to fighting crime?

Both cities saw reductions in violent crime in 2013 but Memphis has a significantly more offenses across the board. There were three times as many murders in Memphis last year than there were in Nashville.

Nashville and Memphis are cities close in size but they're are two very different cities with very unique challenges.

DOWNLOAD: Crime comparison between Nashville and Memphis

The grass is always greener on the other side when it comes to crime and policing in Nashville. The old saying rings true.

MORE: Could Memphis open its own crime lab?

"We had the lowest number of homicides last year than we have had experienced in the 50 year history of the metropolitan government," said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

Nashville's Democratic mayor and city leaders are celebrating their drop in crime. Their police officials credit the metropolitan government's investments in law enforcement and commitment to fully staff the department.

This week Mayor Dean and Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson cut the ribbon on a $40 million police precinct and full service crime lab.

"I know we will be able to do even better in solving crimes and preventing crimes with the help of our new DNA crime lab," Mayor Dean said.

Nashville's state-of-the-art crime lab is the first of its kind in the State of Tennessee. Until now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation handled everything across the state. The Nashville Metro Police Department hired forensic scientists from across the country.

There's a full service DNA lab. Scientists will be able to process evidence from homicides, rapes even property crimes. The firearms lab has an indoor firing range, and they can do all their own ballistics work. There are even a garage where crime scene technicians can process evidence as large as a semi-truck.

Chief Anderson said the new facility will help police put more people behind bars...

"Early identification of these criminals will allow our officers to take them off the street more quickly," Chief Anderson said. "We know that they are apt commit if they left unapprehended."

In 2013 there were 43 criminal homicides in metro Nashville. There were three times as many criminal homicides in Memphis -- 129 last year.

On the surface there are some stark differences between Nashville's Metro Police Department and the Memphis Police Department. The MPD is talking about closing precincts, the city council slashed this year's budget by about $6 million, and no new officers are being hired right now.

As the new crime lab opens in Nashville, in Memphis the MPD is dealing with a backlog of more than 12,000 rape kits. But both Metro Nashville and Memphis reported drops in violent crime in 2013. In Nashville they're expecting about a six percent drop in major crime.

Memphis Police is reporting a four-and-a-half percent drop in major crime.      

The metro government in Nashville has invested millions of dollars in the police force but law enforcement experts say cutting the crime rate takes more than policing.

"The crime rate is a reflection of the city," said Dr. Bruce Gay, Tennessee State University. "A city is made up of neighborhoods, neighborhoods are made up of communities, families and individuals, and so really a crime rate's a reflection of the people who live in that city."
 
Dr. Gay, a former police officer and a criminal justice professor at TSU, said social and cultural issues have to be considered.
    
"The number of broken homes, the single family, teen pregnancy, the number of people who have children out of wedlock, fathers who don't take responsibility for the children that they bring into this world, and the numbers of homes in Memphis that don't have fathers in the homes and all of these kinds of things are the kinds of things where, that don't allow us to kind of teach those values of respect and value of life and property and people's rights and things like that," Dr. Gay said.

The lack of respect drives crime in a city like Memphis and investing in policing alone won't change things, Dr. Gay added.

"You got to change people's hearts," he said. "People have to learn respect for people, and respect for property, and respect for authority, and respect for life. You know, the values we teach."

Dr. Gay said comparing Nashville to Memphis is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, the population is close, but Nashville has a much stronger economy, a lower unemployment rate, higher incomes and property values and more taxes coming in.

Bottom line they have more money coming in and more money to spend on things like law enforcement.

Mapping out addresses from where criminal and justifiable homicides took place in 2013, the data shows small pockets where homicides were more frequent; overall homicides taking place across the majority of Memphis ZIP codes.

CLICK HERE to view the map created by FOX13 News

Data provided by the Memphis Police Department included 145 homicides, criminal and justifiable. At the first of the year, a Memphis Police spokesperson said there were 150 with 21 of those being justifiable; the data received by FOX13 News showed 10 justifiable homicides.

In ZIP Codes 38128, 38114 and 38109, there were 14 homicides; 13 in ZIP codes 38115 and 38118. One homicide listed from the data provided by the Memphis Police Department was recorded taking place in Arlington.

A victim listed in the data is referred to as "Jane Doe" with the incident location as "unknown."

At least one officer-involved shooting was listed as "murder," not "justifiable homicide;" it involved the incident taking place at I-240 and Sycamore View in April 2013 that left Daniel Brock deceased.

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