Federal, state and local enforcement representatives met with the selected offenders and personally promised to hold them accountable for any future crimes with swift and severe prosecution and punishment.
Social service providers offered help with education, job training and placement, housing, substance-abuse counseling and other assistance.
“I’m tired of hugging crying mothers who have lost sons or daughters to violence,” Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich told the 10 offenders. “The community is tired. We want to change that. We’re doing this because we care about you and about the community. We want you to succeed and we are offering you the tools to do that.”
Operation Comeback uses the focused deterrence approach of support and accountability that has been used successfully in other cities and is part of the Operation: Safe Community-3 (OSC-3) five-year plan to reduce violent crime in Memphis and Shelby County. Gen. Weirich is the chair of OSC-3.
The program recognizes that a relatively small number of offenders commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the communities where they live.
The felony offenders selected for the meeting are on probation or parole and were required to attend. Collectively they have been arrested 260 times, victimized 111 people and have been convicted of 141 crimes, including aggravated assault, felony thefts, aggravated burglary and domestic assault. They also have been the victims of crime 25 times.
“We are fed up with you victimizing our citizens,” said Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings. “It is going to stop tonight. There are people here to help you. We’re here for you, but I promise you that if you don’t get yourselves together, all the resources of the Memphis Police Department will be focused on you.”
Other members on the law enforcement panel included Chief Deputy Floyd Bonner of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department; Chris Hoffman, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Memphis; James Catalano, DEA resident agent in charge; Brent Beavers, ATF special agent; D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee; and Tony Parker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
“Take advantage of what’s going on here tonight,” Commissioner Parker said. “For those who don’t, I’ll see you before long.”
The meeting at the Tennessee Day Reporting Center in Whitehaven included social service representatives from the Memphis & Shelby County Office of ReEntry (MSCOR), the Workforce Investment Network (WIN), HopeWorks, Memphis Housing and Community Development, Memphis Housing Authority, and Lifeline to Success.
Retired MPD Col. James Kirkwood, now executive director of the Memphis Christian Pastors Network, delivered a strong community message to the offenders, urging them to take advantage of the program and stop the violence.
“I’m here tonight to offer you some motivation,” said Rev. Kirkwood. “We want to give you the opportunity for a better life. Not everyone gets that chance. This is a different day.”
Gen. Weirich thanked the officials and social service providers for their dedication to making the program work, but said the success of Operation Comeback will be determined in the coming weeks and months as the selected offenders choose how to respond.
“The words and sentiments shared by each speaker came from the heart,” Gen. Weirich said. “Let’s hope it connected to the hearts of the listeners.”