Taking Memphis' Pulse on Crime

By Harrison, Lynn W. | Business Perspectives, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Taking Memphis' Pulse on Crime


Harrison, Lynn W., Business Perspectives


Memphians feel safe on their home turf. But once we leave our own neighborhoods, its another story.

Crime is the number one concern of Memphians, according to several recent polls. But in a survey on crime and violence conducted in April 1994 by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at The University of Memphis, an overwhelming number of local residents--84.2 percent--said they felt safe in their own neighborhoods.

Regardless of residency, race, gender, age, or income, Memphians indicated that the street where they live is, at least in their own minds, a "safe street." Outside the neighborhood, some Memphians feel threatened.

Respondents indicated that fear of crime affects where and when they shop and, in some instances, which events they will attend (see "Safe After Dark?" p. 10). More than 85 percent of respondents said the crime rate is very important when deciding where to buy a home, rent an apartment, or live. However, a majority of respondents (50.6 percent) said Memphis is about as safe as most

other large Southern cities. And, 70.6 percent of respondents feel they receive adequate police protection in their neighborhoods.

The Bureau's survey was conducted by telephone between April 4 and April 28, 1994. People in more than 400 randomly-selected households in Shelby County responded to the survey. All respondents were at least 18 years old. Survey respondents mirrored the local population as indicated by the 1990 United States Census. Of those who responded:

* 43.5% were African-American

* 54.8% were white

* 72.1% were city residents

* 25.2% were county residents

* 48.4% were male

* 51.6% were female

The margin of error for the survey was [+ or -] 5 percent.

In step with the nation

The survey contained questions addressing a broad range of crime-related topics including gun control, juvenile crime, the court system, prison sentencing, the Memphis police force, and causes of crime. In general, responses from local residents were consistent with responses from national polls indicating how Americans feel about crime.

Mirroring national trends, most participants in the Bureau's crime survey indicated they favor stronger gun control laws, are pleased with their local police force, are less pleased with the court and jail systems, and are very disturbed about juvenile crime.

Noteworthy was the overwhelming similarity of responses among survey participants regardless of race, age, income, gender, and residency. However, there were a few distinctions. Overall, men felt safer than women, and younger respondents (those between 18 and 30 years old) felt safer than people over 60. Additionally, people who live in the city of Memphis felt safer visiting locations or attending events within the city than did county residents.

Gun control

Respondents' attitudes on gun control were consistent with national public opinion. Stronger gun control legislation is needed to reduce crime, respondents indicated. Survey participants were asked several questions on the gun control issue, including:

Safe After Dark?

In its survey of opinions on crime-related topics, the Bureau asked
respondents to indicate how safe they feel at certain Memphis-area locations
and events, both during the day and at night. Responses to the question of
how safe people feel after dark included the following:

                         Very Safe/Somewhat Safe      Not Safe       Unsure(*)

Downtown Memphis                   38.5%              46.4%          15.1%
Mud Island                         46.9%              17.5%          35.1%
Beale Street                       47.9%              29.6%          22.5%
The Pyramid                        54.6%              15.8%          29.1%
Midtown Memphis                    43.7%              40.2%          16.0%
East Memphis                       71. … 

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