Former Shelby County DA to lead new Public Safety Institute on UofM campus

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A new partnership between the University of Memphis and the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission aims to make our neighborhoods safer.

The announcement was made Thursday afternoon at the Urban Child Institute in Downtown Memphis.

The University of Memphis President M. David Rudd also announced a new partnership with the MSCCC.

A Public Safety Institute has been created at the U of M as well which will also be led by Bill Gibbons.

The former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security under Governor Bill Haslam will also serve as the President of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission starting in September.

Gibbons is no stranger to Shelby County.

He served as District Attorney of Shelby County until he left to work for Haslam.

"I think doing something about violent crime is really the lynch pin toward making progress in other areas like population growth and job growth," said Gibbons to a room full of Shelby County leaders after he was named the new president of the MSCCC.

Gibbons said he's ready to get to work but talk is often easier said than done.

With the Shelby County homicide rate 69% higher than this time last year, South Memphian Nina Benson is ready to see positive change come to her neighborhood.

"A light need to shine somewhere, it's ugly here. It's ugly. Every night you hear two or three folks getting shot at," said Benson.

WREG took her concerns to the Commissioner to see if there are any solutions now.

The role of the Crime Commission is to see what is and isn't working in the county to make it safer.

Gibbons said he didn't want to pre-judge what should be in the next Operation Safe Communities Plan, a road map for improving the county over a few years.

"I think what we've got to do is focus on gang activity, drug trafficking, domestic violence in particular if we're going to reduce violent crime," explained Gibbons.

He also said the city needs to be able to analyze if having more cops on the streets makes a difference.

Benson said right now all she can be is optimistic and hope policy can trickle into her neighborhood.

"It's a start. Anything can help right now, you know?"

On Thursday, the university announced the new Public Safety Institute would be housed on campus in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy.

The goal is to draw upon the multiple disciplines the university has to offer to come up with new policies and strategies for improving public safety.

“We are proud to partner with the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission to host the Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis,” said President M. David Rudd. “The UofM has a strong history of research using technology and analytics to pioneer new ways to prevent and solve crime. We are excited to be able to contribute to a reduction in crime in the Memphis area. This is an important step in advancing the growth and development of our community.”