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 the course of a three-year engagement, the PSP facilitates the development of data-driven and evidence-based strategies tailored to each city’s unique needs.
Since 2005, West Memphis has had a violent crime rate significantly higher than the national average. This is due in part to its close proximity to a large city, Memphis, Tennessee, and two major interstate thoroughfares, which are national avenues for drug and gun trafficking.
Figure 1. West Memphis and US violent crime rates since 2004
Drawing from Data to Combat Crime:
The PSP team helped West Memphis counter 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, a data-driven crime reduction strategy, and a police foundation. The PSP team also strengthened federal law enforcement partnerships.
On February 1, 2017, local and federal partner agencies began Operation Data-Enhanced Targeted Enforcement and Restoration (DETER). This operation was the West Memphis PSP site’s strategy to reduce violent crime by focusing on decreasing interpersonal violent crimes (e.g., assault, robbery) and using data to drive policing responses.
There were multiple key components to Operation DETER. Implementing the program included outreach to chronic offenders to offer rehabilitative support and caution against additional violations, proactively policing crime hot spots at times when offenses typically occurred, and the introduction of a WMPD law enforcement analyst who collected data and measures to serve operational goals.
Engaging with the community was also integral to DETER’s success. Before their partnership with the PSP, WMPD did not have a social media presence and had little participation in community outreach efforts. PSP introduced focused, data-led solutions to help WMPD remedy these issues and reconnect with the community to lower the violent crime rate.
One year into the program, the West Memphis PSP site saw an overall crime decrease of 27% in the DETER focus corridor. In the final year of engagement, the team improved both community outreach and promoted officer recruitment. They also developed a plan to sustain the reduced violence endeavors that were implemented through the PSP.
The West Memphis PSP site completed the initiative’s three-year duration in September 2018. The PSP helped drive change in West Memphis’ police culture, and the police department is now a far more data-driven organization.
The long-term goals for WMPD are to continue decreasing crime and improve relationships between the police and the public. Because of the work started by PSP, West Memphis’ police department can now pursue these goals because of their new ability to evaluate measurable outcomes, an improvement in internal communication, and a greater capacity for networking with the community.
Download the complete case-study below for the full details of how the PSP and WMPD were able to decrease DETER corridor crime by 27% in only a year. To measure what matters and improve your organization like West Memphis, schedule a call with us here.