Weekly Update: Tackling our violent crime challenge


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The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission released its quarterly crime rate report today, and the numbers are absolutely unacceptable.

We have a 9.9 percent rise, year over year, in major violent crime. And we have a 10.6 percent rise in major property crime. 

Homicides are down by 12.2 percent.

We’re confronting this head-on in today’s Weekly Update because you deserve to hear from us what we’re doing to reduce these levels. Today’s news only further illustrates why I’ve made long-term crime reduction such a priority since my first day as your mayor.

Rebuilding MPD’s staffing has been a key area of emphasis. Because of our efforts, the largest class in seven years will graduate from the academy in three weeks, and we look for the 2017 classes to provide the first net gain of officers in seven years. Along with all we’ve done to improve compensation and retain officers, we’re well on the way to get out of this ditch we were in when we took office.

Simply put, help is on the way for MPD.

We group our crime reduction efforts into five areas. Here they are, with items we've acted on listed in each category:

Rebuilding MPD (We had 2,452 officers in November 2011; we have 1,915 today -- the lowest number in at least a decade.)

  • The largest recruit class in seven years is currently at the academy.
  • Two classes are funded in this budget.
  • The next class starts Aug. 28, with a goal of 100 recruits.
  • We expanded recruitment to neighboring cities; recent visits to Birmingham, Jackson (Miss.) and Little Rock increased our lateral recruiting applications by 30 percent.
  • We worked to fix an antiquated hiring process -- we're now allowing candidates to apply online, for instance, which has increased our applications by 70 percent.
  • We brought back the PST program as a force multiplier to allow commissioned officers to focus on violent crime and created the Blue Path program as a pipeline to become a PST.
  • We landed a nationally unprecedented $6.1 million grant for retention bonuses and to boost recruiting.
  • Officer compensation has improved, including three pay increases in 18 months and the restoration of pre-65 health insurance subsidies.

Offering more for our youth (A 2015 study showed that Memphis had the highest percentage of “disconnected” youth -- who either aren’t in school or aren’t employed -- in the country.)

  • We increased summer youth jobs from 1,000 to 1,250.
  • We partnered with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to provide nearly 500 jobs or second interviews to young people in June.
  • Library hours expanded, including 10 neighborhood branches that are now open an extra day.
  • We increased community center programming, with spring break camps and literacy components in summer camps.

Reducing recidivism

  • We supported successful bills in the state legislature to lower barriers to expungement.
  • We're paying for expungement fees through our privately-funded Better Memphis Fund, which removes hurdles to the workforce for people with nonviolent records.

Increasing economic opportunity

  • We actively pursued decisions to place corporate headquarters in Memphis -- such as ServiceMaster, which retained some 1,200 jobs.
  • We're raising awareness of 15,000 open jobs in Memphis area -- plus free training, education and assistance -- at opportunitymemphis.com.
  • The MWBE share of City of Memphis contracting has increased by 69 percent in our first 16 months in office.

Lobbying for stiffer sentences for violent crime

  • We successfully lobbied for a stiffer sentence for felons in possession of guns, as gun violence is a large driver of violent crime.
  • We successfully lobbied for better laws to address domestic violence, as this also makes up a large category of our crime.

We also want you to join us in our action. Get involved in helping our young people pick the right path in life by mentoring or by reading to a kid. You can learn more at memphistn.gov/calltoaction.

This week, I saw a quote that stuck with me: “A leader’s job is to paint reality and give hope.” In today’s Weekly Update, we’re doing both. This is the real situation we’re working to reverse, and above are the tangible items -- along with all the momentum in our city that I highlighted last week -- that give me the certainty that we’re on the right track.

You elected me to implement long-term solutions to the systemic issues we’ve faced in Memphis for generations. We’re doing that. Reducing violent crime is our No. 1 long-term priority for the future of Memphis. Today’s news only strengthens my resolve to continue all we’re doing to make that happen.

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