VOL. 115 | NO. 138 | Friday, July 20, 2001
Frayser community activists target gangs, drugs
Frayser community activists target gangs, drugs
By MARY DANDO
The Daily News
The Frayser area is showing the way in community activism as it attempts to rid its neighborhoods of drug dealers and confront criminal gang activity.
Frayser was chosen as the test area for Operation Courage, a program that uses a problem-solving approach involving a broad coalition of public and private entities to combat gang-related crime.
As part of Operation Courage, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said about 18,000 Drug Dealer Eviction Program brochures have been mailed to residents in the Frayser community.
Under the Drug Dealer Eviction Program, Gibbons office can evict tenants from rental property for possession of illegal drugs with intent to sell.
The information delivered to homes in the Frayser area is designed to encourage residents to call in tips of drug dealing to Crime Stoppers, said Bobby Carter, Drug Dealer Eviction Program director.
Individuals who call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH can earn cash rewards for tips that result in the successful prosecution and removal of the tenant from the property.
Through a grant to Gibbons office and Crime Stoppers, the Assisi Foundation of Memphis provided funding for rewards.
The Drug Dealer Eviction Program, which began in July 1997, operates by authority of state law and allows Gibbons office to notify landlords of instances of felony drug law violations, which occur at their rental property. The landlord may choose to begin proceedings to evict the responsible individuals or may request Gibbons to bring these actions.
"The Drug Dealer Eviction Program is an effective means for law enforcement and citizens to work together. Since it began in 1997, some 900 drug dealers have been removed from rental property," Gibbons said.
Carter, who has been in charge of the Drug Eviction Program since 1999, said although the response from the program is still largely anecdotal, he believes it is going very well.
"Were getting a very positive feedback from the citizens, which to me is the most important," said Carter, who attended grade school in Frayser.
Operation Courage was originally initiated by law enforcement officials.
The Memphis Police Department and Shelby County Sheriffs Office came together to form the Metro Gang Unit, then decided to combat crime with community help and formed Operation Courage.
The Frayser community was targeted initially for Operation Courage because although it is confronted with a high level of violent crime and criminal gang activity, it also has in place core community-based groups positioned to provide strong partnerships with law enforcement.
In addition to law enforcement and prosecution efforts, as part of Operation Courage, various churches in the Frayser community have come together to form the Ten Point Coalition to work with at-risk youth identified as potential gang recruits or as affiliated with gangs but seeking a way out.
Elder Tommy Sullivan, a member of the Church of the Word, Worship and Praise, is president of the Ten Point Coalition, which incorporated in February.
The coalitions approach is to go into schools and places where young people congregate and try to reach them at their own level, Sullivan said.
Their greatest success to date is a young gang recruit who was ordered to kill three others to prove his loyalty. He contacted members of the coalition, was put in a safe house and the intended victims were saved. In addition, his sister, a gang member and A student despite being a drug user, was put in in-school suspension and graduated successfully.
Sullivan is heartened by that incident and believes five lives were saved as a result of the coalitions intervention.
In addition to the MPD, the sheriffs office and the D.A.s office, the coalition includes the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, Juvenile Court, the FBI, the Secret Service, Frayser area schools, the Frayser Community Development Corp., the Frayser Community Court Advisory Board, the University of Memphis Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.
The coalition organized an all-day event for young people at the police academy earlier in the year. A similar get together is Tuesday at Piersol Group Camp at Meeman Shelby State Park from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
These sessions are very valuable and revealing to the coalition, because it also hosts a question-and-answer session and young people tend to open up more at a social gathering, Sullivan said.
After Frayser, Operation Courage will next target Whitehaven and Hickory Hill communities.
"We have to go where the gangs are. Theyre there and we need to go there," Sullivan said.
The coalition operates without any government funding. Those who want contact them should call Sullivan, 219-5633, or send contributions to Ten Point Coalition Inc., 3000 N. Watkins St., Memphis, Tenn., 38127.