Weekly Update: The Memphis I know


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In the past week, many Memphians have been confronted with our city’s violent crime challenge in a way that has hit closer to home than before.

For too many Memphians in too many neighborhoods in our city, though, this challenge is a daily reality. And I think Phil Trenary, whose memory we honor and whose passing we mourn, would be the first to say this: We should mourn the passing of every single Memphian who is lost to gun violence.

And we should act.

That’s what we’ve been doing since we took office, confronting our complex, decades-old violent crime challenge with new energy, new ideas, and a new commitment from City government that we’ve never seen before.

And that’s what many of you have been doing these past few years, too — sacrificing your time to mentor a young person or read to a child. To everyone who has answered this new call in the past couple of years, and to everyone who has been answering this call for decades, I want you to hear this from me: Thank you. An entire city values your work.

If you are interested in answering our Call to Action, you can learn more here.

This week, a significant part of our continued campaign toward a long-term reduction in violent crime moved forward when a class of 97 Memphis Police Department recruits started training at the academy. These new recruits join another 40-plus recruits who started back in August — a smaller class we squeezed in as an addition to our twice-a-year classes that we’ve brought back to the norm. We also just graduated more police service technicians, bringing our total there to about 100. PSTs play an important role in the department, freeing up commissioned officers.

After a four-year period (2012-15) in which the City dramatically scaled back on police recruiting, we’ve ramped it back up. In my first two years and nine months as mayor, we hired more officers than in that entire four-year span, and the recruiting efforts continue to pay dividends.

But confronting Memphis’ crime challenge is not only about policing. We must confront our crime challenge with a holistic approach that combines suppression with connecting Memphians, particularly our youngest Memphians, to opportunity. And that’s what we’re doing.

In our first two years and nine months, we’ve increased youth summer jobs by 50 percent, doubled library programming, made summer camps free for the first time, and introduced spring break camps — among many, many other items geared toward our youth. And in a move that will pay major dividends for our community in the long run, we worked with our partners on the City Council to find a way to fund universal, needs-based Pre-Kindergarten.

We’ve raised private dollars to expunge the records of non-violent felons, easing the path for them to re-enter the workforce. Thousands more Memphians are employed today than Jan. 1, 2016, and we continue our pursuit to attract new companies and grow the ones we have.

You can connect to the opportunities in Memphis by visiting opportunitymemphis.com.

Our message is simple: If you’re willing to take personal responsibility and connect yourself to the opportunities in our city, we’re doing every single thing we can to help. And if you’re not, we’re doing every single thing we can to ensure you pay the price — including lobbying for stiffer sentences for violent crime and working more closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute gun crimes in the tougher, federal system.

Crime is complex, and we’ve been dealing with it in Memphis for decades and decades. It demands our full attention. It demands solutions from every partner in our community, from families to our education system to the private sector to government at all levels.

Memphis deserves no less.

The Memphis I know will overcome our crime challenge.

The Memphis I know is the retired grandmother who volunteers her time in a school far from home so that at least one more child can read.

The Memphis I know is the dad who wakes up early, puts in a long shift at work, then coaches his son and their friends in a basketball league.

The Memphis I know is the officer who buys a child ice cream, the pastor who keeps his church open late as a respite, the mom who juggles two jobs so that her children have a chance.

The Memphis I know consists of all of our momentum — from $15 billion in new development, to a renewed emphasis on our core and our neighborhoods, to a civic ownership of our authentic selves in a way we've never had.

The Memphis I know stands united in confronting our core challenge. With everyone pulling in the same direction, we will be the Memphis we all know we can be.

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