Weekly Update: What We're Doing to Reduce Crime


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No job of city government is more important than providing for public safety. And no long-term challenge of ours is more important to tackle head-on than crime. That’s why it’s priority No. 1 every day in our administration, and why we’re taking immediate action that will yield violent crime reduction in the long run.

It’s important that you know what we’re doing. In short, our efforts can be grouped into roughly five areas:

Policing: We’re rebuilding our police department -- which was probably at its lowest staffing levels in a decade or more when I came into office -- by recruiting and working to retain officers. The largest police recruit class in seven years is currently in the academy, and new Police Service Technicians join MPD next week.

Youth programming and education: Our summer and year-round jobs programs are critical, and we’re working to expand them. We’re opening libraries longer hours this summer, we held spring break camps in community centers for the first time back in March, and we’re holding literacy programming in our community centers.

Economic development: Good jobs are a great antidote to crime. I was reminded of all we’ve done on that when I toured the future home of ServiceMaster this week. New jobs on Presidents Island and unemployment rates that are at or near the lowest levels in a decade are positive news, too.

Reducing recidivism: Our Better Memphis Fund uses private dollars to pay expungement fees for nonviolent felons to clear their records -- thus giving them a better chance in the workforce. We’re about to pay another round of expungement fees. And we’re lobbying the state legislature to lower the fee.

Tougher sentences: I get emails about this one a lot, and I always point out that state laws govern sentencing. However, we do lobby for stiffer sentencing. In fact, we are supporting this bill that would increase penalties for felons illegally possessing guns. This bill remains active in the current session, and if you’d like to email your legislator to join me in support, the directory is here.

I hope this week's update serves as a reminder of all we’re doing to tackle our highest-priority agenda item -- and your biggest concern.

Crime stats: The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission releases crime stats every month, and the April edition came out this week. These numbers encompass the first three months of the year, and the comparison is to the first three months of last year -- to make sure our comparisons are seasonally accurate.

Murder was down 26 percent in the first three months. Major violent crime was almost identical to last year -- up 0.2 percent. Major property crime was up 14.6 percent.

Motor vehicle thefts are driving up this property crime number. However, MPD’s arrests for motor vehicle thefts are significantly up -- 68 percent in the first quarter over the same time frame last year.

Work Local works: I thank Madeline Faber of High Ground News for this insightful look at one of our initiatives of which I’m so proud: the Work Local partnership with the Hospitality HUB. Work Local drives around our city and offers homeless Memphians the opportunity to work on blight reduction efforts.

It’s modeled after a program in Albuquerque that many of you sent me notes about soon after I took office. We were more than happy to provide city money to fund the program, which is changing lives in Memphis. And if you’d like to help Work Local help more Memphians, come to this fundraising event Thursday at Loflin Yard.

Join our Call to Action: I hope you haven’t forgotten about our Call to Action, in which I’m asking you to mentor a young person, read to a kid, or help clean up our city by adopting a block. You can find out how to get involved at memphistn.gov/calltoaction.

And I’m proud to report that Shelby County Schools says it has trained more than 500 additional Team Read volunteers since our Call to Action on New Year’s Eve. Thanks for answering the call!

Take that for data: In four days, you’ll be receiving a special email from me with a bunch of numbers, dollar signs and percentages -- and some plain explanation about all the ways our 2017-18 budget proposal will help deliver a stronger Memphis. Yes, it’s budget season again, and I’m looking forward to a collaborative spirit of working with the City Council to deliver a solid, responsible budget that works for you.

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