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VOL. 131 | NO. 227 | Monday, November 14, 2016

New, More Compact 5-Year Anti-Crime Plan to Be Unveiled

By Bill Dries

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When local law enforcement and criminal justice system leaders unveil a new five-year plan Tuesday, Nov. 10, for reducing crime and making Shelby County safer, it will be more focused than their previous effort.


Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission president Bill Gibbons and vice president for social engagement Harold Collins will present the Operation: Safe Community plan along with District Attorney General Amy Weirich, who is chairman of Operation: Safe Community. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham also will be on hand.

In an October discussion with The Daily News editorial board, Gibbons and Collins said the plan will have fewer than the 62 strategies in the most recent plan.

“It was so broad that we did not really have the focus we needed,” said Gibbons, a former district attorney general, Memphis City Council member and Shelby County commissioner who comes to the Crime Commission post from being state commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security.

“It will be much more focused. Every strategy or objective under the plan has got to be requested by or supported by the relevant owner,” he said.

That means a goal that affects how police do their jobs will have to be approved or suggested by the police director.

The objectives aren’t likely to involve changes to law enforcement procedures and training.

The plan is set in a different time than the ones in 2006 or 2011. There are stronger calls for criminal justice system reform from both elected leaders and some officials within the system. And fatal police shootings in recent years have produced national calls for change in police training and procedures.

There is also likely to be a broader focus on the crime statistics generated, unlike the focus on crime spikes and their locations that was at the heart of the Blue CRUSH method of policing that started in 2006.

Larry Godwin, who was Memphis Police director at the time, agreed to pursue the strategy with some hesitation, he later said, before concluding he had little to lose.

That first plan in 2006 followed a sharp spike in violent crime.

Blue CRUSH’s tactic of increasing police presence in areas where the statistical spikes were occurring was the most visible part of the effort.

It came at the expense of community policing efforts as Godwin came to regard Blue CRUSH’s show of force in high crime areas as a form of community policing.


Gibbons and Collins say it brought crime down, and by the numbers, crime in the city and countywide is down significantly from what it was in 2006.

But earlier this year there was a spike in homicides and violent crime from the year before. And Strickland’s administration, as well as most city council members, have made building the police ranks from 2,000 back to the 2,400 level a high priority.

Gibbons described the goals as “fairly high-level strategies or objectives, not really specific procedures that the police department or sheriff’s department may or may not use.”

“It’s got to have a near-term impact on violent crime,” Gibbons said. “By near term, I don’t mean one month or one year, but within the five years of the plan so that we can really measure the impact.”

The measuring will be done by the newly formed University of Memphis Public Safety Institute, of which Gibbons is also executive director.

The pared down set of goals and objectives won’t get into such areas as summer jobs programs.

“I would be one of the first to say it would be very helpful to have more summer jobs for youth,” Gibbons said. “But it’s not part of this plan because there’s no connection with or involvement with the criminal justice system.”

Collins said a set of public hearings to get community input included comments about the need for pre-kindergarten programs, summer jobs and similar programs.

“We have to pull them back in and say this plan will be the result of a focus on the criminal justice system,” Collins said. “We do agree that summer jobs and pre-K are important, but there are other nonprofit organizations within our community that can do that. And we will partner with them. But it will not be a part of our plan.”

There was, Gibbons said, a “fair amount of consensus” in the public hearings on approaches.

“When we talk about the need to focus on reducing violent street crime in particular, a lot of which is gang-related or drug-trafficking related, there’s a general consensus that we’ve got to have that focus,” Gibbons said. “And again, consensus on reducing the number of repeat offenders, the need to focus on domestic violence because it accounts for roughly half of all of the reported crimes against persons in our community, and obviously the need to focus on juvenile delinquency as a part of all of this.”

There is likely to be an expansion of the Safeways program that focuses on crime prevention in apartment complexes.

To be certified as a Safeways community, apartment managers and owners take specific steps to make apartment complexes safer, including installing cameras monitored by police and making access to those complexes stricter.

Safeways began as a federal program, but has become a local program in a spin-off from the federal effort.

Collins, who has served on the Memphis City Council, has directed Neighborhood Watch efforts and coordinated community outreach programs in the district attorney general’s office, including mentoring programs, said there would likely be a new effort to better coordinate Neighborhood Watch programs.

“We have a nucleus of people who already engage in their communities through Neighborhood Watch … who meet on a regular basis to talk about blight in their community, problem people in their community, and other things that they may need that directly affect them and their area,” he said. “What we’re going to do is to use those organizations to catapult what we think will be a better engagement in getting them involved. We believe that this particular part of the plan is critical.”


Meanwhile, Weirich and Stanton announced last week a special prosecutor’s position for heroin cases – specifically cases alleging heroin sales and trafficking as well as responsibility for heroin overdoses.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Scruggs becomes a special assistant U.S attorney overseeing both federal and state cases and determining which cases go through which system. The effort is funded with a $100,000 grant Stanton secured from a larger, regional anti-drug effort.

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