It was a car wash at Hollywood and Springdale where Amy Weirich’s office rolled out their first program. As she described the corner where children from nearby schools passed every day, she commented on the dangerous thugs hanging out there and noted that no car washing was ever done. It was was a drug operation and they shut it down by using undercover agents and every tool the District Attorney General’s office had.
“We shut it down. We shut down a drug factory. I had a grandmother come over and thank us for finally doing something,” Weirich recalls. The case shows how “we take the worst neighborhoods where people stay out on the sidewalk and sell drugs. Data from the University of Memphis lets us know where the hot pockets of drug activity are. We conduct undercover drug sales. It works.”
AG Weirich is illustrating her approach to crime. It has two prongs: “engaging the community and enriching the community. If we can get at the root of the problem we can work with others. It tells people that law enforcement is more than just locking people up. We can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”
The approach is having success. “Crime has dropped 26%,” Weirich says. While her office handles 110,000 cases a year, she notes that just 20% of the population are responsible for 80% of the crimes. “We prosecute every state crime that occurs in Shelby County and we’re one of the best DA offices in the country. We’re more involved today.”
Weirich is quick to credit former DA Bill Gibbons with a vision that is moving the office forward. She was named to replace him when he went to serve in Governor Bill Haslam’s cabinet and will face a primary in March and general election in August 2012. She is the first female DA, a task she handles well in addition to raising four children.
She has been involved in big cases such as the Lester Street murders and the recent dismemberment case. “I believe that if a kid acts like an adult, he should be treated like an adult,” she said. In August, she made that call when a 17 year old junior allegedly knifed his teacher to death at the 7th Day Adventist school in East Memphis.
Another area of concern she has is domestic violence. The amount of it is “staggering. It is our largest number of cases and we have five special court rooms for it.” Weirich noticed that in May “an officer lost his life when he was called on a domestic violence incident.” A woman whose ex husband found her at a hotel downtown was threatened and the officer was shot to death. “It’s a crime that affects all of us.”
She’d like to see a family safety center that would be a one stop service provider for domestic crimes. “We hope to hold onto the victims and increasae the follow through and prosecution. We try to warn victims that the next time we see them it may be in a body bag. However, for many of them the beater is the source of income. They tell me it won’t happen again. It does.”
Right now, Weirich says, “Memphis is at a tipping point. We need to work together to get this city where it should be.” Her twenty years of experience has shown her how to get there.
More information can be found at www.daweirich.com and on facebook at District Attorney General Amy Weirich.