Weekly Update: Addressing interstate shootings, exploring City data


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Like me, I’m sure you’re concerned about the unacceptable number of shootings we’ve seen on the interstates recently. Know that these have our full attention at City Hall, and we are working on everything we can to combat them.

We have requested additional interstate patrols both from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and both agencies have provided them. (Thank you to both.) We have increased our own Memphis Police Department patrols of the expressways, too.

I have pushed for stiffer sentences for road rage shootings. Hard as it is to believe, state law does not mandate prison time for these violent crimes. The Tennessee General Assembly did not advance a bill this session that would have changed that, but we continue our efforts. Just this week, in fact, I convened a task force of local law enforcement leaders — including MPD as well as Sheriff Floyd Bonner and District Attorney General Amy Weirich — to strategize how to renew that push next spring.

As always, reducing violent crime is priority No. 1 at City Hall. Once our MPD staffing numbers started to rebound in mid-2017, we have seen small but steady reductions in violent crime — but we have much, much more work ahead of us. A couple of weeks ago, I welcomed even more MPD academy graduates to our ranks, bringing our current commissioned officer count to 2,083 — up from a low point of 1,909 before our recruiting push started to bear fruit. (Channel 24 had an informative story recently outlining our efforts.)

I encourage you to learn more about all we’re doing to reduce crime by reading the in-depth email I sent on that topic earlier this month.

Paving progress: So far this year, our crews and contractors have paved 111.87 lane-miles of streets — with much more to come. Our 2019 goal, thanks to our work with the City Council to double street paving budget allocations, is 350 lane-miles.

For perspective — and to understand the backlog we’re confronting — we’ve already paved more lane-miles this year than the City did in each of the entire years of 2014 (85.52) and 2015 (90.96).

Sharing our data: When I ran for mayor in 2015, I promised to measure how City government serves you, share that data with you, and hold us accountable. Because of our follow through on that, I’m proud to say we were recently one of seven cities nationwide certified as a What Works City.

This week, we had a special treat as six members of the City of Little Rock’s staff visited us to learn how we’ve made these strides in three years. It’s all about changing the culture and walking the walk of transparency, I told them. They sat in our monthly data review meeting, where they (and we) learned the following highlights:

  • MPD’s 911 call center continues to excel, answering 911 calls last month in an average of 6.73 seconds. Remember, this average was 59.7 seconds when we took office. MPD is also putting more focus now on reducing wait times for the non-emergency number, and now has that number down to 12.83 seconds.
  • Violent crime is down 5.5 percent year-to-date compared to 2018, and down 13.6 percent compared to the same period in 2017.
  • Memphis Animal Services achieved an 89.5 percent save rate in May despite 26 percent higher intake from May 2018.
  • Streets Maintenance has collected 28,649 bags of litter and 5,334 tires (!) off our streets through the first 11 months of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
  • Planning and Development has issued $603 million in building permits year to date, up from $341 million in the same time last year and $241 million in the same time in 2016.
  • Library program attendance is up 112 percent from 2016, and library program attendance among youth is up 122 percent from 2016.

If you want to see all of the Wednesday presentation, you can thumb through the PDF here.

Making waves: I’ve shared our success in increasing minority contracting since we took office, but it’s always good when we hear it from outside the city — like last year, when Memphis was named the No. 1 city in the U.S. for black-owned businesses.

This week, we were honored to have Operation HOPE leader John Hope Bryant and Ambassador Andrew Young — towering figures in the fight for equality — in town for our We Mean Business Symposium. And last week, the national Living Cities organization brought representatives from 10 other major U.S. cities to Memphis to learn from each other and learn from our successes.

We continue to turn heads and make waves in this arena nationally.

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