New Plan Aims at Major Crime Reduction

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From left, Strickland, Rallings, Norris, Gibbons, Weirich
  • From left, Strickland, Rallings, Norris, Gibbons, Weirich

Over the next five years, Memphis-area leaders are aiming for a major reduction in crime and a new plan revealed Tuesday is their road map to that goal.

Elected officials and law enforcement officials announced the third version of Operation: Safe Community Tuesday. The plan outlines new initiatives to reduce violent crime by 30 percent, property crime by 30 percent, and the overall crime rate here by 25 percent, all in the next five years.
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The plan was spearheaded by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission but the eight-month process of drafting the plan involved hundreds of conversations and hundreds of people, according to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. 

“This plan is, perhaps, the most comprehensive and thoughtful approach to fighting crime that this community has ever devised,” Weirich said during a news conference Tuesday at the Urban Child Institute.

The plan will cover years 2017-2021 and is subject to change if parts are deemed ineffective. The plan is more-focused than the current Operation: Safe Community plan, which covered 2012-2016. The new plan has 16 objectives. The current plan has 62, said Crime Commission president Bill Gibbons.

He said the plan is based on applied research and its success will be evaluated by the University of Memphis’ Public Safety Institute, of which Gibbons is director.



So, what’s in the plan? 

More cops, for starters.

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) has 1,973 officers, according to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. Five years ago, he said, the department had 2,452.

“We are hundreds [of officers] short of where we need to be,” Strickland said Tuesday. “To me, that’s one of the biggest things in this plan.”

MPD director Michael Rallings said he hopes to see a uniformed complement of about 2,500 “so we can properly staff the police department.” To get there, he asked for the public’s help.

“Often, we stand on the sidelines and we won’t give up our sons and daughters to make a difference,” Rallings said. “I’m going to ask Memphis again: you have to give up your sons and daughters to attack the problem that we have with our staffing.”

Strickland said MPD ranks won’t grow until a new class of officers is graduated sometime next year. Raising the staff to appropriate levels will take years, he said, but he hoped to accelerate the process with larger graduating classes.

Weirich said with more officers in the MPD and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, that none of “this can be done without that.”

Here are plan’s five goals and the 16 objectives officials believe will help them achieve them:

Strengthen community engagement in crime prevention efforts.
• Create a “Neighborhood Safety Initiative” to strengthen neighborhood watch and community partnerships with law enforcement. (Weirich characterized this as a “neighborhood watch on every street.)
• Assign prosecutors to targeted geographic areas to pursue local public safety priorities. (Weirich said under this model, prosecutors would “get to know the problem people and the people who are willing and able to build up the neighborhoods that need it most.”)
• Build trust through community policing and more interaction between law enforcement and the public.
• Expand the Safeways crime prevention program in apartment communities.

Strengthen law enforcement’s ability to reduce violent street crime.
• Hire and retain more law enforcement personnel.
• Expand data-driven, proactive policing.
• Enhance law enforcement training.
• Enhance information-gathering to reduce gang violence.
• Effectively initiate a “Gang Violence Intervention” model to curb gang-affiliated gun violence.
• Enact tougher state penalties for convicted felons with guns.

Strengthen intervention programs for ex-offenders.
• Provide jobs, life skills and support programs for high risk ex-offenders.
• Implement swift, certain and fair administrative sanctions for violating certain conditions of probation or parole.
(All of this, Weirich said, was to “make sure prison beds in this state and from our community are only used for the worst of the worst and not used for those technical violations like missing too many probation appoitnments because the bus was late.”

Enhance domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts.
• Evaluate and expand the Family Safety Center to reduce the number of repeat victims.
• Effectively initiate a “Domestic Violence Intervention” model to deal with repeat offenders.

Enhance interventions for juveniles committing delinquent acts.
• Establish a juvenile assessment center for non-violent juvenile offenders. (Weirich said this will help “make sure juveniles in the community are getting the help they need so that they never come back to the criminal justice system.”)
• Create a system of Evening Reporting Centers to serve delinquent juveniles.

State Sen. Mark Norris said this involved with the plan are looking for “end results, not interesting results. He said it marked a new way forward on law enforcement that had include smarter laws not just tougher laws.

“That’s where we’re headed,” Norris. “This next generation we’ve go to the smart about law enforcement.”

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