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VOL. 127 | NO. 238 | Thursday, December 6, 2012

Armstrong Unveils Precinct Realignment

By Bill Dries

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There still will be nine Memphis police precincts with the new year. But they will each have six wards, new boundaries and handle something closer to the same amount of calls.

And Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said police officers will do something they haven’t had enough time to do in recent years in many parts of the city – patrol the areas they are assigned to instead of moving from one call to another.

“As it stands right now, we are basically a reactive police department, which means that because of the call volume we get, we basically get calls and we react to those calls,” Armstrong told Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Dec. 4, as he rolled out the reorganization that takes effect with the new year. “We cannot have reductions in crime if we are not a proactive police department.”

Still to come is the plan to decentralize investigative bureaus based at the Criminal Justice Center into offices at each of the precincts now that the new boundaries are set.

“This is something that we looked at for about a year now,” Armstrong said later of the boundary shifts. “We’ve looked at it from every angle that we can possibly look at it. We vetted it amongst each other. … It gives our officers the ability to turn back into proactive officers.”

Armstrong said the city’s 1999 annexation of Hickory Hill was a prime example of new territory that was absorbed within the closest precinct initially without corresponding changes throughout the precincts.

At the time, Armstrong was a lieutenant in the old East Precinct, now Mount Moriah Station, which came to include Hickory Hill.

“The East Precinct was pretty much overrun with calls, which ended up with the opening of Ridgeway Station,” Armstrong said. “Every time we take in something those are more calls that we have to respond to. We’re going to have to continue to adjust the boundaries or open up another precinct. … It’s not anything new.”

John Williams, the manager of the department’s eCrime Analysis Unit, pointed to the Appling Farms area.

“Right now the growth is out east and there may be some plans on the table to take in some of that in Appling Farms,” he told council members. “If we sit back and say when we annex that we’re just going to tack that on to the existing precinct, things are going to get out of balance again.”

Of the 785,860 calls for service police received in 2011, 328,411 or 41.7 percent of the calls were in three of the nine precincts – Old Allen, Raines and Union stations.

Each of the three stations was in six figures on its number of calls for the year.

By contrast, the South Main precinct fielded 43,828 calls and Appling Farms had 57,408.

Taking the same number of calls and applying them to the new boundaries with each of the nine precincts reconfigured to have six wards, the number of calls per precinct ranges from 71,559 in the Airways station to 97,317 in Raines station.

The South Main station, which includes the Downtown entertainment district unit, will see its eastern boundary expanded to include the Regional Medical Center at Memphis area, which has been in Union station. Armstrong also plans to add another shift and maintain the entertainment district unit.

Union Station, which is about to become Crump Station when the precinct moves in the next month or so to E.H. Crump Boulevard, will pick up some territory north of Jackson Avenue now in Old Allen, the precinct that began as the original North Precinct when the city had just four. Old Allen is the largest precinct in terms of resources, wards and calls for service.

Williams noted that those precincts that grow in the number of calls are getting more wards than they had before – more officers.

“It has to go somewhere,” he said of the shift of 20,000 calls away from Old Allen to three other precincts. “So the three stations that were handling the fewest calls – South Main, Appling and Ridgeway – they are going to feel the effect of an increase of calls for service. But at the same time we are leveling the playing field per ward.”

“We want to make sure that that officer has the time to patrol those areas also,” Williams added. “If we can evenly disperse it among the entire city, among the aligned precincts then we’ll have a better chance of reducing crime and also being in those areas that we need to be.”

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