Within our special city on the bluff, there is no denying that Memphis has fought to diminish crime and violence rates over the decades. Due to the intricate foundations of the formation of crime and violence within large metropolitan cities, it is important to consider that crime and violence are directly connected to the economic composition of a city. This relationship can make it difficult for individuals to break through the confines of crime because of their lack of access to high-paying jobs and educational opportunities. Despite the factors that come into play surrounding crime in Memphis, the government and community take a committed stance on the subject in order to make safety in the city a top priority.

Uniform crime reporting and statistics

In the 1930s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation implemented an organizational system for law enforcement crime reporting. Known today as “Uniform Crime Reporting,” it is used within local law enforcement establishments in Memphis, creating extremely detailed crime and violence reports. Under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting guidelines, the most severe criminal cases, known as Part 1 offenses, are integrated into a scoring system that aims to provide extreme detail about every single or multiple offense occurrence. The UCR handbook states, “The law enforcement matter in which many crimes are committed simultaneously is called a multiple-offense situation by the UCR program. As a general rule, a multiple-offense situation requires classifying each of the offenses occurring and determining which of them are Part 1 crimes.” Essentially, this means that in one instance, more than one criminal report can be filed depending on the number of offenses committed. What this looks like for Memphis in the long run is possible ambiguity in the accuracy of statistical crime trend readings, and highly organized and thorough crime reports.

Although crime reporting in Memphis differs from that of other jurisdictions around the nation, this does not mean that statistics should be taken less seriously—in fact, the community takes these numbers very seriously. The community and local law enforcement work tirelessly to not only identify the roots of Memphis crime, but to also care for those who have been affected by crime. The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission is an organization that is dedicated to serve and protect our community by implementing five-year plans to reduce crime rates within the city. Its mission reads, “The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission seeks to improve public safety in the Memphis and Shelby County community by identifying and promoting evidence-based and evidence-informed best practices.” The organization has developed a program called Operation: Safe Community, which focuses on five main goals: strengthen community engagement in crime prevention efforts, strengthen law enforcement’s ability to reduce violent street crime, strengthen intervention programs for ex-offenders, enhance domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts, and enhance interventions for juveniles committing delinquent acts. Through identifying these communal goals, The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission is also able to release annual crime reports that assist in tracking the city’s progress. Despite overall crime trends increasing from 2016 to 2017, The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission reported an extreme decrease in crime from 2006 to 2017. As the nation’s overall social and economic atmospheres change, so do the crime rates in Memphis. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University projects that of the 30 cities with populations over 500,000, Memphis will be No. 8 according to the decrease in its number of murders. Given all the hard work that is being done to keep Memphis safe, it is encouraging to see crime trends decreasing overall in the past decade.

Communal efforts

Along with federal and local government, citizens of Memphis are stepping in to help diminish crime and violence rates in the city. Through establishing organizations geared towards crime prevention, intervention and rehabilitation, the people of Memphis are able to tangibly create safety in the community. Focusing on the prevention of violence, local organization Freedom from Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN) aims to promote a radical and positive change in notions about crime by using education.

“Education is the key to keep our youth free”

Among FFUN’s guiding principles is the vision of educating the community to help deter crime and senseless killings. The organization also established a “watchful eye” program, which consists of making sure students are safe while going to and from school. FFUN states, “This initiative builds trust, identifies economic needs of students, and addresses their safety concerns. We encourage input from the youth so that we can create long term and short term holistic solutions for those needs.” Along with this program, the GRASSY anti-gang program provides support and resources to keep youths from becoming involved in gang activity. Detailed attention to neighborhood safety is something that also assists in reducing gang activity. Around the city, there are specific neighborhood watch groups that ensure neighborhood safety for the local community, helping Memphis law enforcement keep a tighter grasp on controlling crime. Citizens can apply for what is called the Crime Prevention Grant, which partners their neighborhood with the nearest MPD station and other City Divisions. The Memphis Area Neighborhood Watch program is one of the most important crime prevention programs in the city. The program’s ultimate goals are to protect Memphis from criminal activity and promote the establishment of a healthy relationship between local law enforcement and the community.

To coincide with these prevention efforts, there has to be intervention efforts as well. Programs around Memphis such as the Juvenile Intervention and Faith-Based Follow-Up are devoted to breaking the destructive cycle of juvenile crime. JIFF works with youth referred by the Juvenile Court to help these youths plan a crime-free future. With a goal to reduce the recidivism activity of all JIFF participants to 35 percent, the program is currently on track to serve 300 youths a year. Through education and assistance, the Family Safety Center in Memphis works to heal the community in hopes of reducing domestic violence offenses. By rehabilitating families through health, civil and spiritual support services, the organization works to strengthen individuals who have been affected by violence in their family structure. Focusing on health and social services, civil and criminal services, and spiritual support, the Family Safety Center offers comprehensive support to the victims of traumatic domestic violence offenses. Victims can be referred to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment centers, have assistance with law enforcement reports, begin counseling sessions and even have access to translation services.

Through prevention, intervention and rehabilitation, law enforcement and community efforts to reduce crime in Memphis bring awareness to the rest of the nation. In preparation for Memphis’ bicentennial celebration next year and in commemoration of Dr. King, the city has launched an initiative called Year to Volunteer, which urges citizens of Memphis and Shelby County to take time out of their year to help others. Volunteering for programs such as JIFF and others that are dedicated to crime prevention is a great way to get involved in Year to Volunteer and help make Memphis a safer place with a hopeful future.