Group seeks to increase penalties for repeat offenders - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Group seeks to increase penalties for repeat offenders

Retired Shelby County Sheriff's Lieutenant and law enforcement consultant John Harvey says something has to give.

"Memphis is a good place to live, but the crime is so rampant we have to take some steps," Harvey said Wednesday.

Harvey and a group of citizens are launching a new web campaign to fight Memphis crime.

"Stop the Madness" wants to pass a bill to increase penalties for repeat offenders.  If a person is arrested for 10 misdemeanors, they want the 11th crime to bump up to a felony.

"My suggestion is with a sentencing matrix: first time is automatic probation, second time you're going to spend at least one day in jail and then double it from thereafter," he said.

According to court records more than 36,000 repeat offenders committed more than 10 misdemeanors in their lives.

The top offender was Larry West, with 449 misdemeanors under his belt.

Willie Hooker had 302, and Anderson Clark had 265.

Harvey's group spoke with both Republican and Democratic state representatives, as well as Shelby County commissioners.

"Repeat offenders, even with minor offenses, a lot of times lead to more violent offenses, so we have to deal with that," said Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter.

Carpenter said his committee will take a look at the proposal.

"(We will) Look at the entire criminal justice process, from arrest through sentencing through probation," he said.

Harvey said he hopes it will at least spark dialogue to find bolder deterrents to steer people from crime.

For those concerned this would cause jail overcrowding, Harvey said it would actually have the opposite effect, since first-time offenders would not face jail time.

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