Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Operation: Safe Community - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Operation: Safe Community

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By Ursula Madden - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There is a little more than a year left in the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission's efforts to make Memphis one of the safest places to live by the end of 2011.

The commission's new executive director, Michelle Fowlkes, looked over the 15 strategic plans to reduce crime, called Operation:  Safe Community.  She said she believes she knows what is needed to make Memphis safer.

"The Crime Commission, for the past four years, has done an excellent job in the area of suppression and law enforcement," said Fowlkes.

Violent crimes in Shelby County, which include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, are down 28 percent since January of 2006, when Operation:  Safe Community was first launched.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Fowlkes.

For the new commissioner, intervention and prevention strategies are key, especially when it comes to reentry programs for offenders.

The programs for adult offenders are in place to help break the crime cycle and a life in and out of prison, but Fowlkes believes a reentry strategy for juvenile offenders needs work.

"We're really moving now to step up our efforts in youth," she said.

The greatest challenge Fowlkes sees to implementing any new plans or maintaining programs that work is a lack of resources.

"We don't get a lot of resources to support they work that we do," Fowlkes said.  "What we do is leverage existing resources within the community."

But that has not stopped Fowlkes from laying out a foundation of new crime initiatives beyond 2011.

"We're starting to identify what strategies we need to extend," Fowlkes said, "what people we need to bring to the table."

Fowlkes said she hopes the Memphis Police Department will not have to slash it's budget by 25 percent, something Mayor AC Wharton has asked all of his department heads to do in order to comply with a court-ordered payment of $57 million to Memphis City Schools.

Fowlkes believes that type of cut to MPD would be detrimental to the Crime Commission's efforts and Operation:  Safe Community.

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