Memphis Police Director Spells Out His New Crime Plan

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(Memphis) It's one of the things people in this community are concerned about most, crime.

That's why News Channel 3 is asking questions to the city's top cop about the city's plan to make neighborhoods safer.

We found out it's a plan Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong implemented when he took over last year.

The flashing blue lights of Blue Crush are gone.

It's a program that got so much attention the former police director trademarked the name.

Officers used hardcore statistical data to weed out street crime but Blue Crush crashed. Last year the city cut money to fund overtime pay for it.

"We've had to be creative and come up with ways to do that, on duty," said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong.

Blue Crush isn't the only thing cut. Director Armstrong got rid of Co-Act units.

They were mini neighborhood precincts located throughout the city.

"Half of them were not properly staffed. I had Co-Acts with two people in it. There was no vision for them. I just felt like that was not a unit that had been well maintained," said Armstrong.

Armstrong created C.O.P.S., Community Outreach Program.

He stationed two teams of about 30 officers in the north and south parts of the city.  Armstrong says they are hot spots for crime.

He said, "As far as the violence in this city, violent crime in this city, that age dynamic between the ages of 14 to 24 drives all of our crime. All of it. Whether it's on the suspect side or the victim's side."

Armstrong's vision is to focus on juvenile crime in those areas.

He believes doing that will help reduce crime overall in the city but it hasn't done that, yet.

The crime rate is actually up 3% compared to last year.

The increase in crime rate is being felt by the family of 18 year-old DeVail Lewis.  

On a Friday night in South Memphis, R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home is preparing to bury him and another teenager back to back.

Lewis, no relation to the funeral home owners, was shot down as he sat on a park bench outside the Westwood community center, September 19th.

Ironically, the community center was once home to one of those Co-Act police precincts cut out by Armstrong.  

"They ain't been at the gym. Now, they want to come to the gym and harass folks. That ain't even right. So, they hadn't been at the gym before then? No ma'am. He would have never been killed," said Akeil Holst, victim's brother.

Armstrong, "That incident occurred because somebody made up their mind that they were going to take a life that day. So would that have occurred if I had police stationed inside that gym, maybe, maybe not."

Armstrong says his crime plan still relies on statistical data of when and where crime occurs but it also folds in with Mayor A C Wharton's 25 block strategy to clean up neighborhoods street by street.

"We're going in and we're looking at root causes. What is causing the crime in this particular community, why are there gangs in this particular community, why are young people in this particular community picking up guns and resulting to violence," explained Armstrong.

Armstrong says when crime is tied to problems like blight, education and community issues he connects with other city departments or community partners to correct them, "We found there are a multitude of issues that drive crime and we feel if we can go in and address all of that and at some point turn that community back over to the citizens the way it should have been in the first place."

Director Armstrong clarifies that crime is up from a year ago partly because the way they report crimes changed.

Some things that were not counted as police incidents are now apart of the data.

He asks the community to give him his plan time to work. It's been in place less than a year. 

He says if it doesn't reduce crime, he's open to changes and even suggestions.