Memphis looks to New Orleans for insight to decreasing homicide rate

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — From Beale Street to Bourbon Street, Memphis officials said they are now looking to New Orleans for help with it’s crime problem.

The latest information from the city is there have been 97 homicides in the bluff city so far this year.

The city of New Orleans population is about 275,000 fewer than Memphis, but several years ago it’s homicide rate was alarmingly high, forcing the city to make changes.

The city said those changes are working.

The program is called NOLA for Life.

It was started back in 2012 and it directly targets homicides.

“I think trying anything would help at this point.”

Downtown business owner Mary Mason is desperate for change.

Her friend Al Sakan remains in critical condition Tuesday night after he was randomly shot in the Pinch District Saturday night.

“Wonderful man, everyone should be praying for him. Just one of those innocent people that did not deserve this,” she said.

With 97 homicides so far this year Memphis is looking to the New Orleans for guidance.

In 2012 the city known for Bourbon Street and a good time started Nola for Life funded by a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation.

The data driven program focuses on homicide by addressing five pillars.

They are stopping the shootings, investing in prevention, promoting jobs and opportunity, getting involved and rebuilding neighborhoods and finally strengthening the New Orleans Police Department.

“Really we created a model that worked for NOLA. We pulled pieces from different places and tailored them to our unique environment,” said Charles West, Director of Innovation Delivery team for the program.

West is also with the Office of Criminal Justice Coordination.

Within the five pillars are 30 initiatives.

The New Orleans Police Department provided data of the year-to-date homicides since 2011.

In 2011 at this time there 90.

The years following in 2012 there were 81 and in 2013 there were 65.

2014 there were 57, in 2015 the numbers were back up at 78.

However in 2016 the homicide rate is back down at 54.

The program has not provided a crystal clear answer for fighting crime recently there was a spree of armed robberies and carjackings in the city but West said they’re constantly making changes.

“For instance we have specific hot spots in neighborhoods that we are focusing our efforts on and those have shifted over time.”

WREG asked if he thought something similar to NOLA for Life could work here.

He said its important for the city to analyze itself.

“Really understanding Memphis’ challenges, demographics. For instance we knew when we started 52% of our shooting and murders were related to gangs.”

Officials with the New Orleans Mayor’s Office said they’ve been talking to Memphis about their program for years but over the last few weeks they have increased communication.

They are now looking at dates for when they can come to Memphis to speak with Memphis officials about NOLA for Life.

If you would like to know more information about NOLA for Life click here.

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