Tale of Two Cities: Memphis and Atlanta learn from each other during recent visit

The visit to Atlanta included a tour of police housing that is made possible by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which began in 2003 and includes programs such as the At-Promise initiative, the Atlanta Police Leadership Institute, and Connect Atlanta Operation Shield among others. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

A group of people that made their way on foot from the At-Promise Center on Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd. up Griffin Street had many things in common. They were from two major southern cities, some were business owners while others were involved in local government. They also were on the same page about making their homes, Atlanta and Memphis, two of the safest cities in America.

On Friday, Jan. 5, a contingent of Memphians, including members of the Greater Memphis Chamber and a representative of newly elected Memphis Mayor Paul Young’s office, traveled to Atlanta to better understand how the Atlanta Police Foundation has worked with community-focussed organizations and with local businesses to create a safer city. A day earlier Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Department Chief Darin Schierbaum announced drops in major crimes throughout Atlanta on a year-to-year basis. Like many large cities during the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Memphis has gone through bouts of crime and population loss. Part of the group of people from Memphis were Black small business owners who have a direct stake in the city’s future. 

A better, safer Memphis would not only be good for them as citizens but also as business owners, said Michael Hicks, owner and operator of Allworld Project Management, a project and program management services firm in Memphis. 

“I think the state of crime in Memphis is starting to have a negative effect on our ability to recruit and retain talent,” said Hicks. “If we don’t come together and form a response we’re all going to see a decline in growth and responsibility.” 

The visit to Atlanta included a tour of police housing that is made possible by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which began in 2003 and includes programs such as the At-Promise initiative, the Atlanta Police Leadership Institute, and Connect Atlanta Operation Shield among others. The housing program allows Atlanta police officers to secure housing where they work. It is also used as a recruiting and retention tool. During the crime reduction statistics press conference on Thursday, the recruiting of future Atlanta Police Department officers was high on the 2024 wish list for both Dickens and Shierbaum. Housing incentives could help the Memphis Police Department with recruitment and retention. Other topics of discussion during a two-hour open forum included juvenile crime reduction, funding for public safety programs, youth initiatives, and fostering relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Alandas Dobbins (above), the president of Oteka Technologies, a low-voltage cabling company in Memphis, said about the trip to Atlanta to learn more about what the Atlanta Police Foundation is doing, “This is my attempt at being a small part of that change.” 
Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

Asked why she made the trip to Atlanta, Alandas Dobbins, the president of Oteka Technologies, a low-voltage cabling company in Memphis, said, “This is my attempt at being a small part of that change.” 

Both of her adult children work at Oteka, which makes it a family business, said Dobbins, who once lived in Atlanta. “My office is in the inner city and I’m going to stay, but it’s important to us business owners to make this work,” she said.

The two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, have more in common than differences. 

“Memphis is not unique regarding public safety issues, but Memphis is uniquely situated to solve them,” said Greg Duckett, Chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber Board. “ Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

“Memphis is not unique regarding public safety issues, but Memphis is uniquely situated to solve them,” said Greg Duckett, Chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber Board. “What the Atlanta Police Foundation is doing is being a resource across the spectrum.”

Duckett said looking at what is taking place in Atlanta and the success that comes from it doesn’t have to be exactly duplicated in Memphis. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but how we can bring that to Memphis is why we are here,” he said.

Newly elected Memphis City Councilwoman Janika White.
Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

Newly elected Memphis City Councilwoman Janika White was also in attendance. She said she made the trip to Atlanta to bring back “information” and “what’s working and what’s not.”

“The Atlanta Police Foundation seems to be really beneficial to this city, and I believe this is a great model to look at,” said White, who is also an attorney.

On their way to one of the homes the Atlanta Police Foundation built for officers, the group marched up the street in a formation similar to the ones that Civil Rights leaders took during the 1950’s and 60’s.

An African proverb on teamwork reads as follows: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Memphis and Atlanta were together Friday morning. 

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