West Memphis Police violent crime unit seeing results in city

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The West Memphis Police Department is trying a different approach by adding a violent crime unit this year, and what they're doing seems to be working.

Each night, eight to 10 officers patrol the streets making their presence known to the most violent people in West Memphis. These officers target hot spots — neighborhoods known for shootings, drugs and gangs.

"Long as they know we're out there riding around, that's where the impact comes," Sgt. Darrell Hayes said. "It's a deterrent in stopping the next crime."

Police have taken 50 more guns off the streets compared to this same time last year, and the department is also on track to more than double arrests for violent crimes.

"Most of the time they'll jump on the phone and call their friends and say, 'Hey, the violent crime unit is out so be careful.' They don't really know where we'll pop up at. So that's a good part about it," Hayes said.

Officers with the violent crime suppression unit never know what their shift will bring. The goal is stop crime, and prevent retaliation against ones already committed, like a recent shooting in a part of the city known for gang violence.

Officer Michael Steele said it's rewarding to see members of the community some up to them and say, "Thank you, we feel a lot safer in our community."

"Good people that just want to mind their business and live their day to day life, somebody needs to step up and help them," Steele said. "I know I'm helping someone in the end."

Officers say what makes the job easier are the relationships. Many of them finished the police academy together, so they have each others' back, and that translates to the people they serve.

"We are here eight hours a day. They have to live here," officer Jeremy Goods said. "They're here 24 hours, and just them coming to us helps us. It actually gives us a bit more motivation to go out because we know we have the people in those neighborhoods supporting us."

No matter what the day brings, there`s one goal at the end of each shift: getting home safely.

"I pray to God that I help them go home to their families as well. Just like they help me go home to my family," officer Ashley Winkfield said.


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