MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Is the city's lower crime rate fact or fiction? Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong confirmed the discovery of 79,000 memos dating back to 2006. MPD's top cop said many of those memos could be crimes that should have been reported.
There were rumors of this type of thing going on for years. Former Police Director Larry Godwin used to say it was his plan, Blue Crush, that was the reason for the Memphis crime rate going down over the last four years.
Now, with a full review of those 79,000 memos, those crime stats will probably go way up.
The truth sits somewhere inside the Criminal Justice Center, where the folks on the tenth floor are pouring through tens of thousands of memos.
Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said he had been telling folks for years that crime isn't going down in Memphis. He hits the streets; his fellow officers hit the streets. The cops know the truth, he said.
"Us being out here on the street, we know crime has not gone down. As a matter of fact, any common citizen just watching the news or some of the neighborhoods you live in, you've seen crime increase. Juvenile crime has increased, not decreased."
Here's why Williams says the crime rates will skyrocket. Memos aren't used to calculate crime statistics, crime reports are. Director Armstrong has been quoted as saying that from their initial audit, one out of every fifteen memos should have been upgraded to a full police report.
"It's definitely going to be an increase," Williams said. "If they stop doing what they had been doing and report what's happening you're definitely going to see an increase."
Mike Williams likes what Director Armstrong is doing now.
"I think Director Armstrong and the move he has done is a great move, going back reassessing and reevaluating, trying to get the true status of the city and the crime in order to be able to fight crime."
Williams also told abc24.com that a pretty common practice for many years was having a crime reclassified in order to 'downplay' the event.
Cops have their own language. In the language of 'copspeak,' a memo is an event that needs attention, but isn't serious enough to be counted as a crime. A report is serious business.
Former Director Larry Godwin was in meetings most of the day, but has been quoted as saying that if people are out to tarnish his reputation, he'll respond. Godwin said he never looked at memos, but Williams said something was going on.
For example, many times when police were on a suspected burglary, a lieutenant would often tell investigating officers to do something a bit different.
Williams explained, "If in fact the guy had entered the house, but didn't take anything, we used to do that as an attempted burglary. But then they were saying, 'oh no, that's not a burglary, that's a vandalism.' Well I'm quite sure that citizen didn't consider that as a vandalism."
Williams added if you talk to any cop working on the streets they'll all say the same thing - crime isn't dropping, and you don't need reports to show you that.