MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Federal data indicates Memphis' murder rate last year was the worst in two decades, reaching a level not seen since the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1990s.
Memphis reported 228 homicides in 2016, a record number. But not all those killings count as murders under the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting rules, which focus on intentional killings.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports (memne.ws/2oewDuG) that among those that don't count are as many as 19 justifiable homicides and two deaths ruled as negligent homicides.
Criminologist Richard Janikowski, a consultant for the Memphis Police Department, says he has so far counted 195 murders in the city in 2016. The numbers are still not complete. That rate of murder, about 29.7 deaths per 100,000 residents is the highest since 1993.
"It's like the O.K. Corral out there," said Royal Chatman, an anti-violence advocate who fears the city's homicides may continue in an accelerated pattern.
"I just had three students shot last week: One on Monday. One on Wednesday. One on Thursday," said Chatman, who mentors at-risk youth. At least one of those young men died, he said.
"We need to turn this around," he said.
In 1993, Memphis had a population of 618,981 when the city logged 198 murders for a rate of nearly 32, according to FBI statistics.
Janikowski's rate is based on the Census Bureau's 2015 population estimate of 655,770 residents in Memphis. The number will likely change when the Census Bureau releases its 2016 population estimate later this year. The FBI releases an annual report in the fall.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's online crime statistics site on Friday listed 190 murders for Memphis. Janikowski says he understands there is some complication reading information between the TBI and Memphis Police.
Janikowski said time will tell how challenging Memphis' murder problem really is.
"That's one year of data. That's the problem. No criminologist wants to make any kind of conclusion based on one year's data. It could be just a statistical anomaly," he said.