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Violence Prevention in Memphis and Shelby County

Best Practices

Learn more about the practices that have helped Memphis and Shelby County promote collaborative violence prevention efforts.

Collaborating across initiatives in order to minimize duplication of effort and maximize results

Operation: Safe Community laid a foundation that both the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan and the Defending Childhood Initiative (DCI) have been able to grow from. They have been able to utilize the relationships and trust that had been built through the work of Operation: Safe Community and align aspects of implementation where feasible. For example, the initiatives were able to support:

  • Shared Leadership. As mentioned in the collaboration structure, there is overlap in the leadership of all three initiatives. The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission (Crime Commission) board of directors oversees all three initiatives. By utilizing the same group of people to support all three initiatives, they are able to minimize the burden on their leadership and limit redundancy.
  • Shared data and crime trend analysis. In addition to their leadership, all three initiatives have relied on a partnership with the University of Memphis’s Center for Community Criminology and Research (C3R) to provide crime trend analysis, research, federal grant writing, and management. The data analysis provided through the university has allowed the initiatives to develop their strategic plans and monitor their progress.
  • Shared targeted sites. DCI was able to establish its place-based initiative in areas that had previously been supported by the work that the Crime Commission had done through Operation: Safe Community. Because of the transparency of the work that Operation: Safe Community had done, DCI was able to use information, data, relationships, and programs that were already underway as it aimed to expand the work to encompass combating exposure to violence for children and youth.

Involving the highest levels of government and law enforcement

Through their coordinated leadership, all three initiatives have been able to involve high levels of government and law enforcement. This includes the mayors of Shelby County and the City of Memphis, U.S. attorneys, the director of the Memphis Police Department, the superintendent of Shelby County Schools, and more. The bipartisan leadership support has lent credibility to the work and has been instrumental in attracting additional partners.

Developing a message that connects violence prevention and economic growth

By shaping the message of violence prevention in economic terms, Memphis and Shelby County were able to engage and recruit business and economic development leaders that might not previously have seen how they were involved in violence prevention and crime reduction.

Creating a unifying mission for collaborations and coalitions that were already in place

Prior to the beginning of Operation: Safe Community and the work of the Crime Commission, there were already a number of collaborations and coalitions that were taking place in Memphis. By bringing together these groups under a common mission, the Crime Commission was able to utilize the strengths of these collaborative relationships that had already been established.

Creating transparency and eliciting feedback from the community

The collaborations have recognized the importance of making their work transparent and accessible to the community and other agencies in order to attract new partners and ensure that the community feels ownership for the work that is being done. All three have worked carefully to develop strategic plans that provide clear goals and metrics, are supported by data, include evidence-based practices, include accountability measures, and were supported by community feedback.

The Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan provides a good example of a diverse range of methods used to get representative community feedback before and during plan development. These include the following:

  • Listening sessions with community members and youth prior to plan development. The listening sessions attracted 351 community members, including over 100 youth.
  • A community-visioning survey was conducted with community members, attracting 394 respondents.
  • A practitioner-focused survey was targeted at a diverse group of 28 agencies to determine agency philosophy and practice relating to youth violence prevention.
  • A minister-focused discussion session, with 40 ministers across various denominations, focused on youth violence prevention.
  • Review of initial drafts of the plan by two groups of youth. One group of youth represented youth leaders from the Youth United Way, and the other former and current gang members.

Developing data-driven initiatives by using data to develop strategic plans, share information with the public, and support implementation

All three plans are data-driven. They have or plan to use data to support the planning process and to hold implementation efforts accountable.

The partnership with the University of Memphis’s Center for Community Criminology and Research (C3R) has provided data analysis and research support across the initiatives. Data has been used to illustrate the need for violence prevention efforts, understand risk factors and areas of exposure, identify community sites to target work, monitor implementation, show accountability, and illustrate accomplishments to partners and community members. For example:

DCI used data and its partnership with the University of Memphis’s Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action (CBANA) to conduct a needs assessment in order to

  • define the scope of the problem of children’s exposure to violence in Memphis and Shelby County;
  • identify geographic concentrations of exposure;
  • document risk factors and their geographic location to better understand the challenges to reducing, mitigating, and preventing children’s exposure to violence (and to inform the choice of a place-based demonstration);
  • identify assets that might be mobilized to reduce, mitigate, and prevent children’s exposure to violence, especially in high-risk areas through a place-based demonstration; and
  • identify overall gaps in “the system” and the “pipeline” from exposure to accessing and sustaining supportive interventions.

Coordinating with other initiatives to support data-sharing across agencies

Data-sharing across agencies as a method for evaluation is a key long-term goal of DCI. As DCI collects information about data-sharing from the Department of Justice and other sources, it is also working with a grant on teen parenting that has pledged to pay for the first platform of data sharing. The goal is to have a data-sharing system that extends beyond preventing teen pregnancy to also include limiting exposure to violence.

Operation: Safe Community has had experience with sharing data through a gang prevention pilot program based on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) comprehensive gang model it has implemented for the past two years. Within that model, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) based on the template from OJJDP has been used for the sharing of data between law enforcement, schools, youth services, and the courts.

As the data system is rolled out, the intent is to use a similar MOA template for the DCI work. The hope is that the successful history and example of the MOA being used for sharing data between agencies will ensure that partners are more comfortable with the idea of data sharing.

Conducting both national and local evaluations

Both DCI and the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan are conducting local process evaluations to assess their work, as well as national evaluations through the Department of Justice. The DCI plan will be evaluated at the national level through the Center for Court Innovations. DCI also wrote into its grant a local evaluation in order to ensure it is prepared for the national evaluation. The Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan has a similar multi-leveled structure for evaluation. At the national level, it is being evaluated through Jay University, which is providing ongoing evaluation and feedback to all National Youth Violence Prevention Forum member cities. At the local level, the Crime Commission is working through a university research partnership each year to identify the strategies, including youth violence prevention, that need the most support.