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The West Memphis Park and Walk program was implemented to support the police department’s community policing strategy.
The city had noticed a number of would-be thieves pulling car door handles on the streets, trying to find an unlocked vehicle and take any valuables that might have been left inside.
Population: 26 245
Mayor: Marco McClendon
Park and Walk was designed to educate the community and encourage people to check their cars and belongings before bed. Since the initiative’s implementation, the West Memphis Police Department has seen a significant reduction in criminal activity.
Park and Walk encouraged West Memphis police officers to interact with citizens, thereby improving community-police relations and reducing fear of crime. Officers can be seen playing football with children or handing out candy on their night walks.
Officers park their patrol cars and roam the neighborhoods, handing out a list of safety tips they call the “9 p.m. routine.” The list includes removing valuables and guns from cars, locking car doors, and turning on exterior lights.
The Park and Walk initiative allowed WMPD to partner with other community leaders to help build trust between law enforcement and citizens. Mayor Marco McClendon played a role in educating residents on ways to keep their community safe.
Additionally, when a class from the Citizen Police Academy graduates, Park and Walk is one of the graduates’ community service projects. The program also ties in with the academy’s mission, which is to provide citizens with a better understanding of policing functions, how policies are made and what an officer experiences on a daily basis.
The academy is an eight week course and the program includes lecturers that cover topics such as data use, patrolling division, school resource officer program, training division, less lethal technology , criminal investigations, dispatch, special interventions, narcotics, division of evidence and community outreach.
After completing the eight weeks, graduates wear their academy shirts and accompany officers on their nightly Park and Walk outings.
The ministry received many positive comments from the community. According to a former academy participant, Park and Walk helps people feel relaxed and at ease when in contact with the police department.
One area of support for the WMPD is the local religious community. The department has partnered with pastors and their congregations to take to the streets, with pastors and members of the congregation providing spiritual support, providing resources, and letting officers know they are welcome to attend services.
DID YOU KNOW?
Due to its rapid growth, West Memphis took on the nickname “Wonder City” in the 1930s.
Park and Walk can be adopted by any community law enforcement agency, which can hold discussions and tailor the program to specific neighborhood needs. The goal, in addition to theft and crime prevention, is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and citizens.
This has proven to have long term value for the community of West Memphis. The more visible the agents and local officials, the more trust is built within the area.
By strengthening these relationships, West Memphis has more citizens willing to speak out and provide helpful advice and information regarding criminal activity within their neighborhoods.