DA’s office sending letters to people ‘who commit the most crime’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- WREG has obtained the first in what the Shelby County District Attorney's Office said will be a series of letters addressed to repeat criminals.

The letter, hand-delivered Friday to a man with multiple shoplifting arrests, reads in part: "For the last several months, our office has been working with the Memphis Police Department to identify the people in our city who commit the most crime. You are one of those people and we are asking you to stop."

District Attorney Amy Weirich said she couldn't say how many letters she plans to send or how effective they might be, but she said this new approach is worth a try.

"The message in the letter from me to this defendant was, ‘Stop! Stop committing crime,'" said Weirich.

"You are a drain on our community," she added.

The letter's recipient has been arrested 17 times for shoplifting since 2016.

He was arrested last month after police say he tried to shoplift from the same East Memphis Lowe's twice in a single day.

According to the letter, he also has convictions in two other states.

In November, we introduced you to Paul Buchanan, a man with 40 felony convictions for things like theft and burglary.

"There are many people with even longer records," said Weirich.

The letter goes on to urge the accused shoplifter to "Stop breaking the law and get help," promising that, if arrested again, the recipient will "get the maximum time allowed under the law."

"The tone of shame that the letter takes, I don’t think it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s useful," said Josh Spickler, with advocacy group Just City.

Spickler questions how effective these letters will be in reducing crime and said he'd like to see more resources provided to repeat offenders.

"Most of the people that come to the front door of the criminal justice system aren’t criminals. They have some social need."

In the letter, Weirich specifically references the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Re-entry as a place where the letter's recipient can seek help.

The office offers job and life skills training to ex-convicts.

WREG tried to reach out to the recipient of the letter, but it appears he is still in jail.

Read the full letter here.