Violence Prevention in Memphis and Shelby County
Operation: Safe Communities, the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan, and the Defending Childhood Initiative (DCI) have distinct structures, but also many similarities. Most importantly, all three initiatives were designed to be multifaceted and collaborative entities that bring a diverse group of stakeholders together to support their purpose. Some of the key elements within their structures are:
- The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission (Crime Commission) includes a 50-member board of directors representing public and private community leaders. This includes representatives of law enforcement, businesses, schools, local and state government, non-profit organizations, university faculty, and more. View a full list of the board of director’s members. This board of directors supports the work of Operation: Safe Community, the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan, and DCI.
- Memphis Fast Forward provided the catalyst to bring together initial leadership and support on the board of directors. Additional partners were recruited and targeted based on their expertise.
- As the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan was developed, it became apparent that there was a need to expand the group of stakeholders to support this work. To meet the need, the group was expanded to 75 people.
- Expanding the scope of the board to embrace oversight and governance of DCI helped to limit the challenge and redundancy of trying to bring the same people together multiple times for multiple grants and initiatives focused on a similar topic.
- In addition to the board of directors, the Crime Commission partners with neighborhood associations, businesses, faith-based organizations, social service agencies, and universities to develop strategies to support the five-year plan and clearly identify objectives and expectations for each strategy within the Operation: Safe Community plan. View a list of their Community Partners. As the plan has been implemented, new partners have been recruited to support the evolving work. The community was also instrumental in supporting the development of the Youth Violence Prevention Plan.
- DCI partners with a number of service providers in the Memphis and Shelby County to support their work. Their partners include: Family Safety Center, Child Advocacy Center, Juvenile Court, Exchange Club Family Center, Agape Child & Family Services/Powerline Community Network, Victims to Victory, University of Memphis School of Social Work, Le Bonheur Center for Children and Parents, Memphis Area Women’s Council/Erase Domestic Violence Collaborative, and Southeast Memphis CDC.
Staff members from the Crime Commission act as intermediaries to coordinate and oversee the implementation of the Operation: Safe Community strategic plan and the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan. While not an outside intermediary, the Shelby County Office for Early Childhood and Youth has a similar role of coordination for DCI.
The work being accomplished through the three initiatives takes coordination and multiple layers of leadership and organization. The board of directors provides the overarching leadership for all of the initiatives. The board has a president who oversees the work of the board as a whole. Specific to the effort of Operation: Safe Community and separate from the board president, there is a chair of Operation: Safe Community strategies. This chair provides oversight for the 15 strategies outlined in the plan. Within each of the strategies, there are one to two strategy leaders or chairs who coordinate the objectives outlined within the strategy and the effort to accomplish the work. These leaders report their work to the board of directors. Sub-committees or task groups have also been utilized based on the complexity of the work being done to support the strategies. Similarly, the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan is structured with core teams based on the strategies outlined in the plan. As the plan is in its initial stages, work is currently being done to populate these teams and their leadership. The leaders of these teams will also report their work to the board of directors. Rather than utilizing strategic teams, the work of DCI is structured under a steering committee which coordinates its efforts and reports its work to the board of directors.
While the strategic plans are structured differently for each of the initiatives, they were all developed with clear and measurable objectives. The strategic plans establish the structure and accountability for the initiative.
- Operation: Safe Community is based on 15 research-based strategies categorized under smart policing, aggressive prosecution, and law enforcement/community partnership.
- The Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan is based on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) model which includes a prevention goal, an intervention goal, an enforcement goal, and a reentry goal. Each of these goals is supported by specific strategies and action items. Each plan also outlines an implementation approach. The plan has been updated over time and an updated version was released in 2012. The updated Operation: Safe Communities plan (PDF, 149 pages) spans from 2012-2016.
- DCI is a place-based model that includes multiple layers of support (universal prevention, targeted outreach and support, and intensive interventions). The plan is based on four overarching goals. Similar to the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan, each of the goals is supported by three to four strategies.
For both Operation: Safe Community and the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan, the strategies were used to create a structure of separate core teams that work to address each strategy and report to the board of directors on their work. These teams are led by one to two strategy leaders.
The Crime Commission has worked with policymakers and government representatives to see how pieces of the Operation: Safe Community strategic plan can be integrated into ongoing work in the different bureaus of government. For example, they discussed how parks and recreation can support ongoing efforts to prevent crime based on their resources and the capacity that they have to deliver necessary services to the community. Creating these connections and showing how crime prevention can be integrated into the work of government agencies ensures more long-term programming rather than grant-based work that often has a time limit attached.
While the funding sources and program coordination for the initiatives are different, all are focused on limiting overhead costs. These are costs associated with managing the work and acting as a go-between to target funds to partners at the community level that are working to implement the strategic plans. For example:
- The Crime Commission and its work on Operation: Safe Community is mainly funded through the private sector. Its focus is on using funding to convene others and leverage existing dollars within the community or to apply for and attract additional funds to the community so that they can carry out the implementation of the strategies outlined within the plan. Foundation funding and grants have been secured to help support implementation of the strategies. The Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan is not funded currently, though it was developed based on some existing resources. The Crime Commission is currently working to bring stakeholders together to identify, reallocate, and leverage resources to implement the plan.
- Most of the funding for DCI, which is funded through a grant from the Department of Justice, is allocated by the Shelby County Early Childhood and Youth office to the community level partners providing services.