The Commercial Appeal named Dr. Richard Janikowski, associate professor of criminal justice, as one of
the 10 people to make a major impact in Memphis during the past decade. Recent statistics
show an overall drop of 12.9 percent in crime in Memphis in 2009 as compared to 2008
with Janikowski’s “Blue Crush” initiative credited as being part of the reason for
Janikowski discusses the work that led to his designation:
Dr. Janikowski, The Commercial Appeal recently named you one of the “10 People over the decade whose contributions impacted
Memphis.” That is a rather hefty honor, especially since only 10 were chosen? How
do you feel about receiving this honor?
I was pleasantly surprised and it is always gratifying to have your work recognized
as having had a beneficial impact on the community. However, the people that really
deserve the recognition are the men and women of the Memphis Police Department: MPD
Director Larry Godwin, the past and current command staff, and particularly the officers
whose courage, dedication and hard work every day make our city safer.
You are credited with being the “guru” behind the Blue Crush initiative that has made
a positive impact on reducing crime in crime “hot spots” in the area. For those who
aren’t aware of what Blue Crush is, can you give us a description of the program?
Blue Crush (Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) is a Memphis Police Department
data-driven strategy developed in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Center
for Community Criminology and Research (C3R). It is a results-oriented philosophy
for effective policing that applies a straightforward guiding principle: Target police
resources in the right places on the right days at the right times and crime will
be reduced either through deterrence or apprehension of offenders. The strategy involves
the adoption by MPD of data-driven decision-making through expanded data analysis
in collaboration with C3R, departmental retooling by refocusing existing units and,
where appropriate, creating new specialized units, emphasizing crime reduction as
the responsibility of everyone in MPD, and incorporating evidence-based practices
in the areas of hot-spot policing, investigation and apprehension of repeat offenders
and problem-oriented policing.
Crime in Shelby County
has decreased with MPD officials crediting Janikowski’s Blue Crush initiative as one
for the decline.
What kind of impact has it had?
Since its implementation in 2006, serious crime, by the end of 2009, decreased by
almost 18 percent in the City of Memphis. Moreover, these declines are continuing
in 2010. While these statistics are important as a measure of effectiveness, the most
critical fact to remember is that this represents thousands of people whose lives
were not damaged because of crime.
Has it been as successful as you envisioned?
Recently, the police director (Godwin) and I were discussing this very question. We
both agreed that strategy has had a far greater impact on crime in the community,
given a variety of constraints, than we had thought feasible when it was being developed.
In addition, the Memphis Police Department through the efforts of many individuals
has undergone a fundamental change in organizational culture with the philosophy of
data-driven decision-making and accountability becoming embedded in the culture of
the Memphis Police Department.
Was Blue Crush your idea or how did it come about?
It was an outgrowth of a meeting called by MPD Director Godwin in 2005 to develop
an innovative strategy to address rising crime rates, a trend occurring not just in
Memphis, but throughout the nation. Based on work we had done with MPD over the years,
he asked me to work with MPD commanders in developing a data-driven strategy based
on the best research available on effective policing. Development of the strategy
was a collaborative effort involving members of the command staff, precinct commanders
and supervisors and line officers. It involved an iterative process of testing tactics
and data analysis, evaluating effectiveness and revising approaches when necessary.
How many years has Blue Crush been around?
It was piloted in 2005 when the Memphis Police Department launched a series of pilot
operations to test new policing tactics and the use of innovative technology to enhance
its crime analysis capacity. The effectiveness of the tactics was evaluated both by
MPD and the University of Memphis’ C3R. C3R also worked with MPD’s Crime Analysis
Unit to develop enhanced crime analysis packages to target crime patterns and crime
hotspots. The success of these operations laid the foundation for creation of MPD’s
Blue Crush strategy in early 2006 using targeted operations with expansion of the
strategy citywide at the end of 2006.
Is there anything new in store for Blue Crush and if so, what?
Blue Crush is a living, evolving strategy. In partnership with MPD, we are constantly
reviewing the effectiveness of various tactics, exploring new directions and approaches
and implementing new facets of the strategy. A central feature of Blue Crush has been
the improved level of crime analysis that underlies effective deployment of police
resources. One significant evolution of the strategy was creation of MPD’s Real Time
Crime Center (RTCC) in collaboration with C3R.
Recognized last year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police with the
Excellence in Technology award, the RTCC is a state-of-the-art regional center for
interoperable data sharing and crime analysis providing a four-pronged approach to
fighting crime: (1) multiagency and multi-jurisdictional data sharing, (2) video surveillance,
(3) enhanced crime analysis and crime mapping capacity, and (4) investigative support.
How long have you been at the U of M and what is your educational and professional
I have been at the University of Memphis for almost 22 years. It has been an exciting
time during which I have watched the University evolve to becoming a leading metropolitan
research institution with very strong urban affairs-oriented programs demonstrating
the substantial impact that researcher-practitioner partnerships can have on community
issues. During these years, I have been involved in a variety of rewarding collaborations
involving a myriad of community stakeholders, from government agencies to community
groups. These experiences and partnerships have made me a better professor than I
could ever have been. They have deepened my understanding of our community, the framework
and constraints within which policy must be developed, and the social issues confronting
us as a society.
Anything else you would like to mention about Blue Crush?
It has become a model, both locally and nationally, for implementing data-driven policing.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office used Blue Crush as the basis for development of
its Data Smart Policing approach as has the Millington Police Department. Law enforcement
agencies from across the nation have been coming to Memphis to be briefed and trained
on the strategy and the new Real Time Crime Center. In addition, an increasing number
of law enforcement officials from other countries have been visiting Memphis to explore
how the approach can be adapted in their jurisdictions.
Are there any other projects you are involved with that you wish to discuss?
We are providing research support for Operation Safe Community, a historic and ambitious
crime abatement initiative developed by the top government and law enforcement leaders
from across Shelby County in partnership with the private sector and community-based
The strategic plan, consisting of 15 research-based strategies, has an ambitious but
achievable goal to “quite simply make Memphis/Shelby County one of the safest communities
of its size in the nation by 2011.” As Memphis Mayor A C Wharton recently noted, it
is the longest concerted effort in Memphis/Shelby County history to reduce crime and
enhance public safety.