A surging violent crime wave is continuing in Memphis, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The mother of one recent murder victim says that Memphis should emulate Chicago’s Project CeaseFire, which has “vaccinated” 19 Chicago neighborhoods and nine other Illinois cities with “outreach workers.” The workers are street-smart program employees who identify and engage individuals who are at high risk of becoming involved in violence, hoping to prevent the shootings and killings from occurring. Memphis officials are preparing for an ambitious anti-crime initiative — Operation Safe Community, which launches with a summit in November. Memphis and its surrounding counties were ranked second in the U.S. for violent crimes last year, according to the FBI’s recent annual report on crime.
“Violent crime is a public health issue. It’s an epidemic. So, it’s a matter of sending the right message, a message that will cause people to change their behavior,” said Norman Livingston Kerr, director of CeaseFire. In most places, residents know who the gun-toters and troublemakers are. CeaseFire coordinators work to mobilize communities against crime. Outreach workers are injected into the area to deal directly with the potential shooters. “We have 60 outreach workers in Chicago. That’s not nearly enough. We need 288 to really shut down Chicago. That’s coming a long way from three in one community in 2000. People are asking for them in their neighborhoods,” Kerr said.