Operation DETER Fights Back Against Crime In West Memphis

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (localmemphis.com) - The West Memphis Police Department is working to clean up crime. Operation DETER, which stands for Data Enhanced Targeted Enforcement and Restoration, began February 1st.

West Memphis Police learned about the strategy from the Los Angeles Police Department after the LAPD reported having great success using a similar program. The operation will focus on violent crime and repeat offenders in specific areas based on data collected over three years.

The area West Memphis Police are focusing on first, is along the South Avalon corridor.

"What is our worst location crime density wise for violent crime, mixed with who are our worst offenders doing these crimes. We couple the two together and you kind of get the strategy behind DETER,” says West Memphis Police Capt. Joe Baker.

Operation DETER is in full swing in West Memphis. It's a crime fighting strategy using data that officials collected in a three-year period.

West Memphis police officers will focus on the South Avalon corridor to Woods street, north from Tyler Avenue to Cole street. A small square about half a mile, but Captain Baker says it's a hot spot for violent crime and repeat offenders.

"The DETER crimes we focused on were our violent gun crimes. Homicides, battery first, which is a shooting, terroristic acts, which is shooting at an occupied structure or car. Crimes of that nature,” says Capt. Baker.

Baker says the target area accounts for nearly 10% of the city's violent crime. Based on data collected between 2013 and 2016: The area accounts for 7.2% of the city's unlawful gun possessions, and 8.5% of reported "shots fired" calls in the city.

Officials identified the top ten repeat offenders of violent crime in the DETER area and sent them a letter, suggesting programs to help turn their lives around, or they'll face stiffer punishment the next time they're arrested.

"Possibly federal prosecution. Possibly just not offering any plea deals when it comes to trial again,” says Baker.

Baker doesn't want people to feel they're being picked on by the police. He says officers care about building trust and making the community safer and cleaner. "They'll focus on specific offenders in that area. Like I said we're not trying to create impositions on the good people’s lives in that area. We're trying to focus on these people that plague that community with problems."

Operation DETER will run about 9-12 months, then they'll evaluate to see if the program had a significant impact. Based on those results, West Memphis Police hope to expand the operation to other areas in the city.  Officers will also board up abandoned houses in DETER neighborhoods to help fight blight. 


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