Crimetracker: Joe Birch sits down with U.S. Attorney David Kustoff

There's a comprehensive plan for fighting crime in Memphis and Shelby County. The plan will be unveiled week at a summit on Crime and Public Safety. But Action News 5 got a sneak peek at "Operation Safe Community."

U.S. Attorney David Kustoff does his homework. He has a major project due next Wednesday that might be a turning point in Memphis' crime crisis.

"I've lived here all my life and I hope to live here the rest of my life. We all have a lot invested in this and we want to see our community a safe community," he said.

Kustoff joined a team of local leaders and law enforcement officers to create "Operation Safe Community," a new strategy designed to make Memphis one of the safest communities of its size by 2010.

"It takes a comprehensive plan and a plan that's long term. It's not a band aid. It's not a quick fix and I don't think you can expect that," he said.

Trench warfare tactics like "Blue Crush" - with its intensive focus on crime hot spots - will get expanded in Operation Safe Community.

"It's going to be like Dave Brown's radar," said Kustoff. "We're going to have the ability to zero in on a particular area and try to flush it out of that particular area."

Truancy will also be a major focus.

Three middle schools - Cypress, Hickory Ridge and Chickasaw - already are conducting a truancy pilot program. Any child with five unexcused absences goes to Juvenile Court with a parent. "We've got to make sure that the program works," he said.

At Cypress, attendance rose from 88.2 percent in one reporting period last year to 92 percent in the most recent period.

Counselors from D.A. Bill Gibbons' office go to Cypress, Hickory Ridge and Chickasaw three times a week to examine attendance roles.

"Bill and I are very close," said Kustoff. "We talk on the phone or meet multiple times a day, talking about crime problems in our community and how we can partner up."

It's that kind of cooperation that will likely be expanded in Operation Safe Community.

How will Memphians know if it works? "The real way they're gonna know is when they can walk out their front door and feel like they're safe," he said.

Something that may still take years to accomplish.

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