Weekly Update: What's new in our fight against crime


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Whether it’s at a community event, a Tigers game, or just in line at Kroger, I can usually count on hearing one of these three things from you:

What are you doing about crime?

When will my street get paved?

Love the weekly email!

(Thanks for the nice words about the email, by the way. We get so much positive feedback about our transparency and efforts to explain complicated topics. Tell a friend about this email and encourage them to sign up here.)

We’ve talked a lot about paving (like how we’ve doubled it) and will again soon, but today, as I like to do every so often, I’m updating our efforts to reduce violent crime.

In short, we work to severely punish the violent, protect the innocent, lift up our youth, and provide more positive opportunities for everyone.

Our full strategy is at the bottom of this email, but I’ll start with a few new items.

  • As part of the overall Operation: Safe Community plan to reduce violent crime, we’re working with the Shelby County District Attorney’s Focused Deterrence program — which held another session this week. This program brings in ex-offenders on probation or parole to outline two paths: 1) social services designed to bring them toward a productive life, or 2) law enforcement promising stern punishment for any future violent acts. This has worked in other cities in redirecting the relatively small number of offenders who are responsible for a large number of violent acts.
  • We added a third, smaller class of police recruits this year to squeeze as much as we could out of our recruiting efforts, and I’m glad to say that almost 40 are set to graduate the academy next week. Another class of 98 recruits is currently training at the academy and will graduate in April. Another class begins training in January, and we’re currently accepting applications at joinmpd.com for yet another class, which will start in April. (Thanks, by the way, for the hard work of our staff members, who are putting in long hours to make this a reality.)
  • We’re still working on details, but I plan to ask the General Assembly to pass a law in the upcoming session making prison time mandatory in road rage shootings. We’ve had too many of these recently, and it’s important that people know there are stiff consequences should they decide to make this risky choice. (Our full state government agenda will be released sometime next month.)
  • Additional federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are joining local law enforcement including MPD to aggressively pursue those who commit gun violence.

We’ve been working our plans to reduce violent crime, which are based on the best work of cities across the country, since taking office. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Rebuilding MPD: A dramatic lack of recruiting coupled with benefit changes turned a police force of 2,452 officers in 2011 to under 2,000 in 2016. We initiated an aggressive new recruiting approach and improved (and work to continue to improve) benefits and pay for officers. There’s plenty of work ahead, but we just had our first net annual gain of officers in seven years.
  • Offering more for our youth: We must do everything we can to ensure our young people have opportunity and don’t travel down the wrong path in life. We’ve increased summer youth jobs by 50 percent, made summer and spring break camps free, increased youth attendance in library programs by 50 percent, and even hosted the nation’s largest My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Opportunity Summit, where hundreds of young people got jobs or second interviews.
  • Increasing economic opportunity: Unemployment is near record lows and 16,000 more Memphians are working today than when I took office. We’ve worked to improve the structures that recruit and retain jobs in our city, so that we can accelerate that growth. We’ve pushed to connect Memphians to free tech and community college, part of our Opportunity Memphis initiative, to prove that if you’re willing to take personal responsibility, we’re willing to help you achieve success in life.
  • Reducing recidivism: Through the private dollars we raised, 152 Memphians have had non-violent felonies removed from their records — thus removing a key hurdle in finding or improving job opportunities. We also worked with the General Assembly, particularly Rep. Raumesh Akbari, to reduce expungement fees.
  • Increasing penalties for violent crimes: We must end the revolving door at 201 Poplar for violent offenders. We worked with the General Assembly to stiffen penalties for felons carrying guns, and we’re working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute more gun crimes in the federal system. (Prosecutions for gun crimes there are up more than 58 percent.) We’ve also worked with the General Assembly to stiffen domestic violence penalties, and I’m eager to work with them next year on the road rage shootings bill I mentioned above.

Though much work remains ahead of us, it is encouraging to note that gun crimes are down 19.4 percent through the first 10 months of this year when compared to the first 10 months of last year.

We must continue this work to ensure that reductions are felt every day in every part of our city, and it remains priority No. 1 at City Hall.

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