Profile No. 17

Weapon Watch -- Memphis, TN

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to change attitudes about guns and violence.

Program Goal:
To reduce weapons in the schools through the use of a weapons hotline.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
All students in the city and county schools.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Bob Raby, Director of Security
Memphis City School District
2597 Avery Avenue, Room 145
Memphis, TN 38112
Phone: 901­325­5773

Charles H. Branch
Executive Director
Crime Stoppers of Memphis, Inc.
3340 Poplar Avenue, #223
Memphis, TN 38111
Phone: 901­327­7822

Years of Operation:

Weapon Watch is a hotline program that was created to address the growing number of weapons in the Memphis City and Shelby County School Districts. The goals of the program are to create a safe learning environment by removing guns and other weapons from the schools and to serve as a deterrent to children who consider bringing weapons to school. The program is a joint venture involving Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools, Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff's Department, and Crime Stoppers of Memphis.

The Weapon Watch hotline allows students to anonymously report fellow students who have guns or other weapons on school property. If a student sees an individual with a gun or other weapon, or knows about a crime that occurred on or around school property, he or she can contact the confidential hotline (which is operated by Crime Stoppers). The Memphis Police Department or the Shelby County Sheriff's Department is then contacted by Crime Stoppers, and a police officer is dispatched to the school. Cash rewards of $50 to $1,000 are given to the caller, depending on whether an arrest is made and the type of weapon or the severity of the crime.

The program is advertised to the student population through fliers that are distributed to every student and by signs posted in the schools. Due to extensive advertising about the program, many reports of weapons also have been received from adults outside the school system.

This hotline is unique in that it is operated by a confidential third party; the students actually speak to Crime Stoppers, rather than to a school official or a police officer. The students' desire for safety and the anonymity of the program are believed to be more important factors in its success than the offer of a cash reward. This is evidenced by the fact that only 50 percent of award funds have been collected.

Since the inception of the program, more than 400 weapons, including several handmade bombs, have been seized. In 1993, during the first 100 days of the program, police removed 100 guns from the schools. During the 1994­95 school year, 60 arrests resulted in the recovery of 24 firearms. During the 1995­96 school year, the hotline received 117 calls; 44 calls were related to firearms and 15 firearms were confiscated from school grounds. During the 1996­97 school year, 12 guns and 27 other weapons were reported to the hotline and seized. During the first 2 months of the 1997­98 school year, six guns were reported to the hotline. Crime Stoppers officials believe the program places students at a high level of risk for bringing weapons onto school property or committing crimes at school; students do not know who is going to turn them in, and, thus, the potential for being caught has increased dramatically.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report