The Long Way to a Safer Memphis: Local Policies for Crime Prevention Need Structural Change


In many places in the United States, the coexistence of “poverty, violence, aggressive police oversight, and incarceration erode[s] public life, compromising the capacity of neighborhood residents to achieve social cohesion and community organization” (Friedson, Sharkey 2015, 343). In these places, a public policy oriented toward repression ends up boosting societal and community divisions, a “great divide” that, in turn, creates the pre-conditions for crime. Memphis is no exception. This policy paper stems from research on local policies regarding public safety and crime prevention in Memphis.

The research uncovers the limitations of the city’s current approach and suggests how policies could be changed. In a nutshell, Memphis, like many other cities, is engaged in a shortsighted and narrow approach to public safety; effective crime prevention needs long-term thinking and broad policy action. This paper presents two main limitations in Memphis’ current strategies.