In October 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) invited West Memphis, Arkansas, to be a part of the National Public Safety Partnership (PSP). The PSP is a DOJ-wide program that helps participating cities address serious violent crime challenges, over a three-year engagement, by facilitating the development of data-driven, evidence- based strategies tailored to each city’s unique local needs.
Since 2005, West Memphis has had a violent crime problem considerably higher than the national average, due in part to its proximity to a large city, Memphis, Tennessee, and two major interstate thoroughfares, which are national avenues for drug and gun trafficking.
The PSP team helped West Memphis address its violent crime challenges by building a comprehensive solution to support data-driven policing. Through a focused and coordinated effort, PSP helped the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) develop a crime analysis capacity, data-driven crime reduction strategy, and police foundation, as well as strengthen federal law enforcement partnerships. On February 1, 2017, local and federal partner agencies kicked off Operation Data-Enhanced Targeted Enforcement and Restoration (DETER), the West Memphis PSP site’s strategy to reduce violent crime by focusing on decreasing interpersonal violent crimes (e.g., assault, robbery) and enhancing the use of data to drive policing responses. One year into the program, the West Memphis PSP site saw an overall decrease of 27 percent in DETER crimes in the DETER focus corridor. In the final year of engagement, the team improved community outreach and officer recruitment, and they developed a plan to sustain the violence reduction endeavors that were implemented through the PSP.
The West Memphis PSP site completed its tenure in the initiative in September 2018. PSP has helped change the police culture in West Memphis, and the police department is now a more data- driven organization. The long-term goals for West Memphis are to decrease crime and to increase trust and relationships between the police and the community.