The photographs of more than 100 people stare out at the
crowd of several hundred on an overcast Saturday afternoon
in Memphis. The pictures - many of children that likely were
snapped at family gatherings, photography studios or for school
yearbooks - should have been among the first to fill a large
collection of photo albums that tell a life's story from childhood
to adulthood. Instead, these photos serve as some of the final
glimpses of lives stopped midstream by violent crimes.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office, led by Mark H. Luttrell
Jr. (MPA '74), along with the Memphis Police Department
is collaborating with the U of M's Center for Community
Criminology and Research.
Among the large audience at the mid-May "Save Our Youth"
campaign to reduce youth violence in Memphis, a gospel youth
choir on the stage at Overton Park sings, "I've got a
feeling everything's gonna be alright," beneath a white
banner that reads in red lettering:
"Stop the Killing / Our Youth . . . Our Future .
The upbeat music shakes loose some smiles and a bit of swaying
from audience members that stops just short of actual dancing.
Some continue to suffer from losses like that of Memphis resident
Stevie Moore, who organized this event after losing his son,
23 year-old Prentice Moore, in a 2003 shooting at the now-closed
Denim & Diamonds nightclub. The proceedings kick off Freedom
from Unnecessary Negatives, a community-based economic and
social program for youth and young adults, founded by Moore.
Showing their support, a number of top government officials
are present, including U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Shelby County
Mayor AC Wharton, Shelby County District Attorney General
Bill Gibbons, Memphis Police Department director James Bolden
('77 B.A.) and Shelby County Sheriff Mark H. Luttrell Jr.
All are resolute in their tough stances toward crime as they
address the audience.
"By being here today you are making a statement that
you are fed up with violence in the community," says
The desired result is simple: "We simply must stop destroying
each other," Bolden says.
But achieving that aim is more difficult.
"Solving the problems of our community is going to take
more than police officers and jails," says Luttrell.
As forces from all corners of the Memphis community collaborate
to tackle crime in the community, faculty associated with
the University of Memphis' Center for Community Criminology
and Research are participating in a number of partnerships
and initiatives with local law enforcement agencies. Their
far-flung efforts include combating gang activity and gun
violence, training officers with the latest techniques, and
collecting information on criminal activity more efficiently
through sophisticated technology. "In the criminal justice
world, sound research drives evidence-based changes in public
policy," says Michael J. Heidingsfield, president and
CEO of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. That organization
helped establish the Center for Community Criminology and
Research in 2001 through a grant from the Plough Foundation,
which is expected to run through 2005. At that time the Memphis
Shelby Crime Commission expects to ink a "shared partnership
agreement" in the center that "does not involve
the flow of money," Heidingsfield says.
The Memphis Police Department reported 113 homicides in 2003
compared with 132 in 2002. Among other violent crimes, rapes
were basically flat at 543 incidents; robberies declined to
3,474 in 2003 from 4,327 in 2002; and aggravated assaults
hovered around 4,500 incidents. In property crimes, burglaries
jumped to 16,807 in 2003 from 15,912 in 2002, and larcenies
nudged up to 30,110 from 29,835 in 2002. Auto thefts, however,
declined to 8,205 incidents in 2003 from 8,980 in 2002.
Bolden (BA '77), head of the MPD, is part of the collaboration
which hones in on crime-fighting strategies that deal
with crimes from illegal possession of guns to gangs.
In a separate measure of a larger area, Luttrell says all
crime incidents - violent and property-related - in Shelby
County were up 10 percent through May 2004, compared with
the same period in 2003. "You might make the argument
that with the CompStat program we're doing a better job with
reporting crime," says Luttrell, referring to the data-tracking
system the office instituted a little more than a year ago.
Luttrell was quoting the figure in his efforts to fight the
proposed budget cuts for his department. "The reality
of it is that our budget is based on one figure. And now we've
got this higher figure, and that certainly is not an argument
for decreasing the budget."
In explaining the MPD statistics for 2003, director Bolden
attributes the increase in the two areas of property crimes
to the prolonged economic downturn as well as the severe storm
that ravaged Memphis in summer 2003.
The decline in homicides, according to Bolden, is partly
due to the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, a nationwide
effort to reduce gun crimes through aggressive prosecution
and strategies that deter illegal possession of firearms.
"We've made some significant inroads in confiscating
weapons," Bolden says.
The U of M is playing an integral role in the program as
the research partner through a team led by Richard Janikowksi,
associate professor and chair of Criminology and Criminal
Justice Department. The Memphis effort, which began in early
2002, is a joint initiative among the U.S. Attorney's Office,
the Shelby County District Attorney's Office, the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and local law enforcement.
Janikowski's team analyzes elements such as ATF data, using
a geographic information system to illustrate the "hot
spots" of crime locations and where weapons are recovered.
The team also uses statistical analysis "to get a picture
of these distributions and tends over time," says Janikowski.
The program deploys an intensive media campaign of TV and
radio spots, billboards and signage on public buses under
the slogan "Gun Crime is Jail Time." The U of M
team analyzes the placement of these ads, including times,
days, and stations of the ad appearances, and it measures
their effectiveness through the Mid-South Social Survey Program,
according to Janikowski. The team has been charting the potency
of Project Safe Neighborhoods, including number of arrests,
reasons for the arrests and what kinds of sentences are being
handed down. The verdict so far: "The program is beginning
to have an impact," says Janikowski, pointing out that
the decrease in homicides in 2003 included a substantial decline
in gun-related homicides.
Although Bolden says the PSN effort is gaining traction in
the community, the illegal possession of guns still remains
a deeply rooted problem. "We confiscate thousands of
weapons annually right here in the city of Memphis, but they
keep coming," Bolden says. "So there are elements
that are at work that are supplying weapons to young people,
and a lot of the weapons are being stolen maybe in burglaries
or thefts of homes here."
Gang activity persists as a significant source of crime in
Memphis. The Shelby County District Attorney General's Office
has estimated that roughly 125 gangs and approximately 10,000
known gang members exist in Shelby County, although Bolden
says that the gangs "here are not very well-organized."
The Metro Gang Unit, which comprises MPD officers and Shelby
County Sheriff's deputies, continues to work to curb gang-related
Under this effort, Janikowski collaborates with the unit
on a project called Operation Courage, which has evolved into
an effort under Project Safe Neighborhoods. Janikowksi and
a research team at the U of M use geographic information systems
to chart the areas where gang offenses occur, identify the
involved gangs and the types of offenses.
"That gives (gang unit officers) an idea of where things
are occurring because we're able to use geographic information
systems to map that kind of activity and analyze it,"
Luttrell, who has worked closely with Janikowski on projects,
says the research has provided valuable information to law
enforcement officials that has enabled them to make arrests.
"Professor Janikowski has done a marvelous job in tracking
some of these problems, collecting the data on them and working
on initiatives to combat them," Luttrell says.
In an aim to facilitate the sharing of information between
agencies, which is directed toward thwarting crime, the Center
for Community Criminology and Research is undertaking the
ambitious Shared Urban Data System (SUDS) project. The effort
provides a portal into multiple databases from a wide range
of area agencies and U of M research, ranging from organizations
involved with crime and safety to the Child Health Data Consortium.
The Center's Community Information Project, directed by Cindy
Martin, is playing a technical role in developing the effort,
which is housed on its network server at http://suds.memphis.edu/.
The ongoing project pulls together all of the different agencies'
information in one common area that offers data to the public
and more secure, confidential information that can only be
accessed by approved users, which might include policy makers
and researchers, says Martin. The U of M also is providing
query tools, so agencies can access their own and other agencies'
data for statistical analysis. Features will include an interactive
mapping system for relevant data. "It's got advantages
in that it allows most agencies to share information, which
they have not been able to or willing to do in the past,"
says Martin. "And they have been willing to do it now
in a vehicle for that sharing, which is so important because
agency 'A' doesn't know what agency 'B' is doing."
Janikowski, head of the U of M's Center for Community
Criminology and Research.
The database for MPD, which Martin expected to be up and
running by mid-summer, will feature data such as offenses
and incidents. It will contain information similar to that
of the MPD's Community Safety Information System (CSIS), of
which U of M researchers helped facilitate the development
about four years ago. In contrast, while the CSIS effort is
utilized mainly by law enforcement officials, the SUDS data
will be more geared toward public users and researchers. Other
agencies might also find the information useful. For instance,
Martin says the local Homeland Defense district, a collection
of various agencies, has expressed interest in getting involved
with SUDS and conceivably could use the data in building a
strategy around homeland security.
from A to Z
During a recent two-day class titled Basic Crime Analysis
at the Mid-South Training Institute, instructor Dr. Robyn
R. Mace, a visiting assistant professor at the U of M, encourages
the 18 attendees to discuss solutions to the persistent challenges
of law enforcement. "It's about matching the limited
resources that we have to the unlimited demands placed on
our organizations," Mace says to the class members, some
of whom are dressed in their officer uniforms.
The groups huddle together to discuss such issues as manpower
shortages, motor vehicle theft and misunderstandings stemming
from flaws in organizational structure. One of the students
in attendance, MPD officer Paula Cage, says the course allows
her to swap stories with officers she normally wouldn't come
into contact with. "We learn from some of the older officers
in the class," Cage says.
Basic Crime Analysis is just one of 60 different courses
the Mid-South Training Institute is offering this year. Started
as a joint initiative between the U of M and the Memphis Shelby
Crime Commission (the commission has shifted into an advisory
role), the institute has rapidly grown from just several classes
in late 1999, says director Dennis Joyner. The institute,
located in the U of M Carrier Center in Collierville, employs
instructors from the U of M and beyond, including esteemed
law enforcement veterans such as Richard Ayres, formerly a
special agent with the FBI and faculty member at the FBI Academy
faculty in Quantico, Va.
Since its inception, the institute has added classes in hot
areas such as identity theft and crime prevention through
environmental design. Officers from 19 states have attended
classes under the program, and Joyner estimates that 750 to
1,000 will attend the institute this year. "One of the
things I've found out with police officers through the years
is 95 percent of them want to do a good job," says Joyner,
the former chief of the Collierville Police Department. "The
problem is they're sent out to situations that they don't
have the particular training to handle." The institute
provides a cost-effective way for many area law enforcement
organizations to offer their employees additional training,
according to Joyner. The program also has offered some specialized
off-site training for such organizations as the MPD and the
Shelby County Sheriff's Office.
Although the MPD Academy offers courses, the institute is
a valuable resource because it uses a number of top experts
in the field of criminal justice to teach its classes, Bolden
says. And its proximity to Memphis enables the MPD to give
additional training to large numbers of officers and avoid
significant travel expenses. "It's been a godsend for
the police department," Bolden says.
It's just one of the many ongoing efforts to strengthen the
chain that links educational resources of the U of M with
well-trained police officers. And when that happens, greater
prospects for safer communities are sure to follow.