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DA Weirich announces new way to prosecute crime

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- The Shelby County District Attorney's Office is taking a new approach to prosecuting crime.

"It is called community prosecution," said District Attorney General Amy Weirich. "The goals I envision include shifting a focus of crime prevention and intervention to the communities where the crimes are occurring."

Weirich announced her new approach to prosecuting crime on Monday night at the Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser.

She assigned one of her prosecutors to only work cases out of the Old Allen Precinct in Frayser. A team and two judges will also handle every arrest in that area.

"The more information a prosecutor has at their hands, the better they are to serve the community," she said. "Prosecutors with background knowledge of a community, established partnerships in the community and the trust of the community will bring better results for the community."

Weirich said right now, prosecutors don't have the opportunity to build strong relations in communities, and it makes it hard to know what criminals are capable of when they're not in custody.

"We also don't know what we can do to prevent and intervene in the lives of so many people," she said.

Weirich said cities across the country implemented community prosecution.

She's following a program out of Philadelphia.

The DA there reported promising results in the first couple years like cases moving through the system faster and fewer felonies were dismissed.

According to the Association of prosecuting attorneys, there were minor problems at first like busier court times.

"Memphis has been doing the same thing for 30 to 40 years. Crime is growing. Gangs are growing and drug problems are growing and violence is growing. We've got to try something different," said General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Gerald Skahan, who will handle the cases out of Old Allen Precinct.

Weirich will launch her new plan at the Old Allen Precinct on January 3.

She chose that precinct, because in the past three years, it has seen the most aggravated assaults and burglaries. Officers also responded to 50 homicides and more than 1,000 robberies.

"We chose Frayser-Raleigh area, because of its high crime rates and because the area is home to diverse, grassroots community organizations that are working dial to bring a better way of life to this area," she said. "Hopefully, we can bring quicker relief to victims, to witnesses and the communities."

If all goes well, Weirich hopes to expand her plan across the county. The Tillman precinct would likely be the next. She's already assigned a prosecutor there.