Targeting Crime

Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission’s Bill Gibbons addresses Monthly Membership Meeting

The Chamber’s Monthly Membership Meeting on June 12 at Collierville First Baptist Church featured a fact-filled presentation by Bill Gibbons, President of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and Executive Director of the Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis. Ken Cope, Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, hosted the day’s meeting in the absence of Mark Heuberger, who was tending to family matters after the death of his mother.

Cope spotlighted the importance of the Chamber’s premier partners, before calling attention to several new members in the crowd who were allowed a few minutes to introduce their services and products: Champion Promotion; Lone Oaks Farm; Redeemer Group; National Christian Foundation – Memphis; Ally Care, and Dirt and Daisies Children’s Boutique.

Dr. Tyler Cannon of OrthoSouth, the day’s sponsor, cited patient-centered service as a principal motivation of OrthoSouth, stating, “Everything revolves around the patient.” As one of five hand and wrist specialists at OrthoSouth, Dr. Cannon mentioned a Pickleball Webinar they are sponsoring to address the many hand and wrist injuries accompanying this fast-growing sport.

Collierville’s Chief of Police, Dale Lane, took the podium and welcomed the crowd with his trademark, “Thank you for allowing me to be your chief of police.” Lane mentioned his own connection and professional background with the featured speaker, calling Bill Gibbons “a tireless advocate for law enforcement and public safety.”

Bill Gibbons is well-known for his many years of service to the community. He was previously Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and former District Attorney General of the 30th Judicial District of Tennessee, which includes Memphis and Shelby County.

Gibbons began his remarks by commenting on the A+ rating of Collierville when it comes to crime, and admitted, “We have to do something about Memphis.”

Citing statistics showing a downward trend in crime from the last half of 2023 to the current day, he admitted that while the statistics were encouraging, “We’re not nearly where we need to be.”

Gibbons offered a brief historical overview of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, remembering the mid-90s as tough times, causing both Memphis Mayor Herenton and Shelby County Mayor Wharton to recognize the need for a stand-alone entity to focus on the issue of crime. Gibbons recalls being summoned by Mayor Wharton, who asked him, “What are we going to do?” There was a need for a neutral party, and the Crime Commission was created.

Addressing specific steps being taken, Gibbons mentioned several issues: In an attempt to blunt “retaliatory crime” or in common parlance “getting even crimes,” intervenors, people who are on the ground and can call attention to the potential of such crimes occurring, are now being used. The 901 Memphis Watch Squad and Le Bonheur One and the Regional Medical Center personnel are examples of those who might be able to predict the possibility of retaliatory crimes.

Gibbons noted the increasing number of violent crimes committed by juveniles, and the probability of the numbers reflecting only the “tip of the iceberg,” before admitting that “we do not have an adequate number of beds to house juveniles.” And continuing, he noted the state law that supervision of juvenile offenders stops at their 19th birthday is now being addressed.

Gibbons commented on the significant shifts seen in domestic violence cases, with gun use rising from 25% a few years back to 50% currently. He pointed to the need for more protective housing for victims of domestic violence.

Closing his remarks, Gibbons noted that some in the audience might not agree with recommendations for changes in gun laws, but he cited the need for incarceration of those guilty of discharge of guns, the need for mandatory background checks and proper training for those desiring handguns. Gibbons cited the rise in gun thefts over the last few years as more people own handguns and store them in their vehicles. He suggested that many of the laws governing the freedom to carry weapons “have good intentions but bad consequences.”

Gibbons’ remarks ended with a round of questions and answers.