Public safety is fundamental to the quality of life and economic prosperity of any community. It starts with effective law enforcement and interventions to help offenders, or youth who may have had a brush with the law, to get onto the right path. But public safety is sustainable only as communities address root causes of crime and bolster support networks, improve education and expand employment opportunity for disadvantaged families. In this way, Memphis Tomorrow’s economic development and education initiatives are also about public safety.
For purposes of the law enforcement and intervention side of the equation, the Safe Community Plan of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission is the roadmap for the work we support.
The Safe Community Plan is Memphis and Shelby County’s crime reduction plan. You may read about it in detail at the Crime Commission web site. Launched in 2017, the plan directs 16 key strategies toward reducing violent crime; and was developed with input from hundreds of citizens and approved by the board of directors of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. The Crime Commission is an independent, nonprofit organization that “quarterbacks” the work of the Safe Community plan. It’s governed by a board comprised of law enforcement and criminal justice leaders and experts, along with people from business, nonprofit, faith, government and civic sectors, most of whom are actively involved in supporting various initiatives of the Plan. A number of Memphis Tomorrow board members along with the MT President serve on the board of directors; and the MT organization, along with most of its member companies, provide financial support as well as state and local advocacy for the Crime Commission and the Plan.
Below is a sampling of some of the Plan initiatives in which that Memphis Tomorrow has been directly engaged.
MPD Recruitment / Retention Initiative. A key objective of the OSC 3 plan is to grow the police complement size from 1,967 officers at the beginning of 2017 to 2,300 officers. The police force was at its largest size in over a decade in 2011 with 2,452 officers. Not surprisingly 2011 was also the year when the violent crime rate was the lowest over the same period. Mayor Strickland approached Memphis Tomorrow for assistance in funding some new recruitment and retention strategies, and MT companies responded by funding $6.1 million through the Crime Commission to support the four-year Strickland administration initiative.
MPD Blue Path Program. Memphis Tomorrow funded and facilitated partners — MPD, Southwest Tennessee Community College, TN Promise/TN Achieves, and local high schools — in the development and launch of the MPD BluePath career pathway program. Through the program which is now in operation, MPD recruits graduating high school seniors into full time employment as Police Service Technicians (PSTs), then ushers the PSTs through a free (paid for by TN Promise scholarships) Associates degree program in criminal justice at Southwest Tennessee Community College, and within three years transitions them into sworn law enforcement officers. The program is an excellent example of workforce development partnership, and has the potential to become the primary future pipeline for officer recruitment. It also has the immediate benefit of alleviating traffic responsibilities for sworn officers since the PSTs may be assigned to those duties, thereby freeing up sworn officers for more proactive policing.
Public Safety Institute (PSI) at University of Memphis. Memphis Tomorrow, in partnership with University of Memphis President David Rudd and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission board of directors, established the Public Safety Institute and recruited then TN Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons to a joint appointment as PSI Executive Director and Crime Commission President. PSI is part of the University’s School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy and draws on researchers from multiple disciplines and departments across the University, including the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, as well as from other universities, to explore policies and strategies for improving public safety. Memphis Tomorrow and many of its member companies are funders of both PSI and the Crime Commission.
DROP Freeze. Memphis Tomorrow advocated for the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) program freeze / freeze extension to be approved by City Council in 2017. The Strickland administration recommended the freeze so that those officers who had previously scheduled retirement under the DROP program could change their mind and stay on the police force to help support the City and MPD through a several-year period while the City seeks to grow its police complement size. The freeze/extension was approved.
Safeways. Safeways is a unique organization with a strong track record for reducing crime in large apartment complexes that are major hubs of violent crime. Properties certified through Safeways have seen a 34% average crime reduction, with weighted average reduction even higher for higher crime complexes. The organization contracts with owner/managers to provide innovative safety solutions using a fee-for-service revenue model to help cover the organization’s operating costs. Memphis Tomorrow helped build a board of directors and recruit a dynamic leader who together have established an organization known for its impact and success .
Offender Re-Entry. Repeat offenders drive crime rates, yet with good jobs, training and mental health counseling many can avoid falling back into criminal patterns and begin having productive lives. Memphis Tomorrow has encouraged employers to hire ex-offenders, and has worked with the Crime Commission to encourage workforce development organizations especially including Workforce Investment Network, as well as state government, to use their resources to fund programs that put the necessary supports, including transitional jobs, in place to help ex-offenders onto a productive path.
Shelby County Drug Court. Memphis Tomorrow has joined the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission in regularly advocating with state lawmakers to sustain the annual state funding of $500,000 for Shelby County Drug Court. The Shelby County Drug Court provides non-violent offenders with the option of supervised drug treatment – resulting in reduced repeat offenses and incarceration cost savings (Drug court costs $13/day as compared $58/day at the Shelby County Correctional Center and approximately $100/day at the Shelby County Jail)