By Ryan Poe

Source: The Commercial Appeal

July 24, 2017

Hours after an off-duty Shelby County sheriff’s deputy was wounded Monday in Downtown Memphis, local law enforcement officials and prosecutors announced they will seek maximum sentences for gun violence as part of a new “Fed Up” campaign.

The Fed Up campaign is a three-pronged attack on gun crime, focusing on advertising, aggressive investigations, and prosecutions seeking maximum sentences.

Federal and county prosecutors will seek maximum sentences of 8-12 years under state law and 15 years under federal law for gun crimes, said County District Attorney Amy Weirich and U.S. District Attorney Lawrence Laurenzi. Memphis will also shell out $300,000 for radio, outdoor and television advertising through the end of the year.

“This community is fed up,” Weirich said. “This is our response, this is our symbol to them, that we hear you.”

Violent crime is up 9.9 percent in Memphis in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period of last year, according to the latest data from the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute.

“Over the last few years, the level of gun violence has crept back up in our community and taken root,” Laurenzi said.

Laurenzi said the advertising portion of the campaign will send offenders a clear message: “That we’re going to find you, that we’re going to prosecute you, and that we’re going to seek the maximum sentence the law allows.”

But the tough-on-crime approach, whose popularity revived with President Trump’s election, is a failed strategy according to mounds of research from across the country, said Josh Spickler, head of criminal justice reform advocacy group Just City.

He said the city should abandon simplistic solutions to complex problems and instead focus on poverty, availability of guns and lack of opportunities for young men.

“I don’t have a silver bullet,” Spickler said. “… But there is no silver bullet.”

Meaghan Ybos, who founded rape victim advocacy group People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws in Memphis, said she sees the Fed Up campaign as a continuation of a law enforcement culture more interested in glitzy public relations and prosecutions that “don’t equate to safer communities.”

“We have had this same tough-on-crime posturing from leaders for many years while rape kits were ignored,” said Ybos, herself a victim of rape.

The city has supported a number of advertising campaigns over the years along the same lines, most recently in 2009, said Mayor Jim Strickland, who was elected in 2015 after campaigning partly on stiffer sentences to deter crime. He said a University of Memphis study showed anti-gun violence campaigns corresponded to less gun crime.

“We’re fed up,” he said in a statement. “The citizens of Memphis are fed up with the type of senseless violent crime that claims lives and puts everyone’s quality of life at risk.”

The advertising contract was awarded to Trust Marketing & Communications Inc., headed by chief executive officer Howard Robertson. Robertson has overseen similar advertising campaigns for the city in the past.

Strickland thanked Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, for sponsoring legislation this spring that stiffened penalties for domestic violence and for possession of guns by felons. Norris, who was just nominated for a federal judgeship, said the legislation was his third “Crooks with Guns” bill, similar to ones approved in 2007 and 2009.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said the campaign could act as a deterrent to the city’s homicides, which involve people who know each other in 93 percent of the cases. The city had 113 homicides this year as of Sunday, compared to 132 at this time last year, according to The Commercial Appeal‘s online Memphis Homicide Tracker.

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