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VOL. 121 | NO. 224 | Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blue C.R.U.S.H. Walks Its Beat Among Community Organizations

By Amy O. Williams

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LIFTING THE BAR: R.P. Tracks co-owner Peter Moon, left, and community activist Melissa Pearce have been working with the University of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department to ensure that Operation Blue C.R.U.S.H. is a success. -- Photo By Amy O. Williams

Operation Blue C.R.U.S.H. has arrived at the University of Memphis - and it has nothing to do with the Tigers. The goal of this Blue C.R.U.S.H. is to help fight crime.

The U of M area held its first-ever Blue C.R.U.S.H. meeting Monday night at St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Highland Street.

Representatives from the Memphis Police Department presented information about the program to people who live and work in the neighborhoods surrounding the U of M.

"We're doing these all over the city," said Janikowski, who serves as chair and associate professor of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis. "We're explaining the Blue C.R.U.S.H. concept."

Janikowski, along with officers from the MPD, are making presentations around the city to community groups of any size - from five to 200, Janikowski said.

The groups can be anything from neighborhood watch groups to church groups; all they need to do is ask, he said. A meeting was held Wednesday night at Second Presbyterian Church at 4055 Poplar Ave., and though he did not have any specific future dates, Janikowski said all groups need to do to schedule a meeting is call the MPD and request one.

Crushed together

Deputy Chief Janice Pilot of the MPD's Uniform Patrol, Deputy Chief Dewey Betts of Investigative Services and Janikowski, also director of the University of Memphis Center for Community Criminology & Research (CCR), gave presentations at the meeting. They told the crowd how the MPD will work with U of M researchers to put Blue C.R.U.S.H. to work.

Other meetings also are being held throughout the city as the Blue C.R.U.S.H. initiative expands from its focused operations to a citywide program.

Blue C.R.U.S.H. started in fall 2005 as a pilot program.

"They were run to test different tactics and to test the technology - what worked and what didn't," Janikowski said.

The program uses statistics and maps to pinpoint and target high-crime areas, or "hotspots," so police can step up patrolling. The data even is able to tell police what days and times are hotter than others for crime.

"The guiding principle of Blue C.R.U.S.H. is getting the right police resources in the right place, on the right day, at the right time," Janikowski said. "So they get maps of specific hotspot offenses."

Pinned down

Beginning this year, CCR and MPD started doing focused operation areas where they began to look at specific hotspots. By using the data provided by CCR, MPD was able to determine what kind of units would be needed.

More than one year after it began, Blue C.R.U.S.H. appears to be making strides.

The last focused operation area that was completed at Union Station, formerly known as the West Precinct, saw a 65 percent decline in violent crime and a 38 percent decline in property crime as of October, Janikowski said.

With the expansion of Blue C.R.U.S.H., every precinct now will be getting a weekly Blue C.R.U.S.H. analysis package identifying hotspots on a weekly basis.

The Tillman Station - formerly known as the Central Precinct - responds to calls in the U of M area and will be one of the nine precincts to get those analysis packages.

"Hopefully we'll begin seeing declines. We're very early into the (expansion)," Janikowski said. "We're already beginning to see basically for the first time that we've managed to push numbers below the 2005 level. It's not only that we've slowed growth, we're actually beginning to see impact into the negative numbers."

Unity is key

Monday's Blue C.R.U.S.H. meeting was sponsored by several area organizations that are determined to make the area around the university realize its full potential: University District Inc., Highland Area Renewal Corp., the University Neighborhood Development Corp. (UNDC), the University District Business Alliance and the University of Memphis.

Melissa Pearce said she believes that cooperation is essential for the success of the area.

Pearce lives in the university district and serves on the board of UNDC. She has been active in the community for years and works with all the area's associations.

"I think it's wonderful we can do this," Pearce said. "These groups really need to work together."

Initiatives such as Blue C.R.U.S.H. give people an understanding of how the police department works, Pearce said.

Area business owner Peter Moon agrees with Pearce. It is awareness, he said, that is going to be a solution for communities in dealing with crime.

"It's really important that everybody gets on the same page," said Moon, who co-owns university-area restaurant R.P. Tracks at 3547 Walker Ave. "It takes all of us to make this work, and this area has so much potential."

Now that the Blue C.R.U.S.H. program is getting started and all the surrounding organizations are on board, the university area could be on its way to being the community it wants to be.

"We are really working to build a team," Pearce said. "We want to let people know this area is a great place to come."

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