An illegal gun on the black market ... $500. One small rock of crack cocaine ... $20. Price of fighting such crime under the new city/county Operation Safe Community crime plan ... priceless. At least for now.
Last week, city and county leaders unveiled an elaborate crime-fighting plan to make Memphis the safest metropolitan area in the country by 2011. But, with almost 30 agencies involved, the plan does not yet have a cost attached to it.
Components of the plan include hiring more police officers and prosecutors, upgrading law enforcement technology, designing a gang strategy, expanding offender re-entry programs, and toughening state gun laws.
"It's a huge undertaking," said Memphis police director Larry Godwin. "It's definitely not something one police department can do. It's going to be really costly. But when it comes together, you'll see an impact on the neighborhoods."
The plan includes establishing a Memphis City Schools (MCS) police force and school-based probation counselors. In addition, Shelby County Schools (SCS) hope to provide mental-health services to some students, and the district attorney's office will be expanding a mentor-based pilot program aimed at reducing school truancy.
That's only a sampling of the strategies outlined in the large-scale plan, spearheaded by local CEO group Memphis Tomorrow.
When contacted, a representative from Memphis Tomorrow told the Flyer that they did not have an estimated cost for the safe-community plan yet. In an attempt to calculate the overall cost, the Flyer requested budget information from the individual agencies.
Only five of the 12 lead agencies -- MPD, the Shelby County District Attorney's Office, Juvenile Court, Shelby County government, and the Family Safety Center -- had detailed budgets. Based on those responses alone, the plan comes to $72 million for its first year. The cost in additional years may be lower due to one-time start-up costs.
The $72 million accounts for hiring more Memphis police officers, toughening state gun laws, hiring more prosecutors, expanding the drug court and the D.A.'s mentor-based truancy program, expanding juvenile and adult offender re-entry programs, and establishing a Family Safety Center for domestic violence victims. The money would come from a combination of local, state, and federal public and private sources.
The number does not include the cost of upgrading police technology, strengthening law enforcement partnerships, developing a gang strategy, enacting a better code enforcement system for dealing with problem properties or launching a second "Gun Crime Is Jail Time" media campaign.
Neither MCS nor SCS officials knew the budget for their components of the plan. A representative from the JustCare 180° program, which will assign intervention services to the 12,500 youth coming through Juvenile Court every year, told the Flyer that its budget should be complete in 30 to 60 days.
Though the program will greatly exceed $72 million, that figure is lower than the $131 million combined annual total of incarceration costs at the Shelby County jail and the corrections center.
"As taxpayers, we all want a safer community. We all want better educated children," said Jeune Wood with the Shelby County Juvenile Court. "All these quality-of-life issues can be obtained but not on the cheap."