MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fed up with recent crime in their community, dedicated neighbors in Cooper Young are helping police put criminals behind bars.
Using a network of more than 70 cameras, the Cooper Young Neighborhood Watch has captured car break-ins, drive-by shootings, vehicle thefts, and other crimes on surveillance video.
Colonel Russel Houston praised the organization for the evidence neighbors have handed over to Memphis Police in recent months.
"This is an example of what some extraordinary citizens can do when they get involved," Houston told FOX13.
Houston meets with the group about once a month to discuss ongoing investigations. Detectives work closely with Jason Whitworth and Michael Cairo, two board members of the neighborhood watch, to exchange video and information.
"Cooper Young is doing well," Whitworth told FOX13. "All the neighborhoods around us are doing well, except we're kind of victims of our own success. I think we're drawing more criminals in."
Neighbors felt crime was becoming more pervasive in the Midtown neighborhood. While the Cooper Young Neighborhood Watch had existed for years, Cairo said the group lacked leadership and coordination.
“The police really want to help,” Cairo said, adding that there’s a common misconception that police don’t have time for non-violent crime.
“If the detective has evidence on the case, they’re going to absolutely work it,” Cairo added. “Our camera system is helping them get evidence for those cases.”
In the Fall of 2017, the group began building its relationship with Houston, who’s the commander at their neighborhood precinct, and detectives who work cases in their neighborhood.
"We have several other neighborhood watch groups, and some of those have cameras as well,” Houston said. “The distinguishing factor that I've seen so far is the energy from the citizens."
The proof is in the arrest record.
In the short months since the Neighborhood Watch dedicated themselves to the crime-fighting effort, they’ve helped police with high-profile arrests.
Video of a car traveling on York Ave shortly after an armed robbery was reported, provided evidence police needed to arrest and charge Antonieo Dorse with at least three armed robberies.
Ray Burns, another high-profile suspect, was captured multiple times in the Cooper Young neighborhood, either walking from crime scenes or driving stolen vehicles.
“They supplied some pictures that were useful as part of Ray Burns’ pattern of behavior,” Houston said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Burns was the subject of several stories on FOX13. He is in jail charged with more than 70 crimes.
A photo can be the evidence that puts criminals behind bars, and Houston told FOX13 Cooper Young’s Neighborhood Watch has a strategy that works.
“This is an example of what some extraordinary citizens can do when they get involved,” Houston said.
Whitworth and Cairo will tell anyone who asks that the effort is a commitment that requires hours of their attention each week.
“You need to have a really committed core group of people who are willing to put the time and energy into it,” Whitworth said.
Police encourage other communities to learn more about MPD’s neighborhood watch program, and collaborate with them like the group in Cooper Young.
"He's genuinely interested in us," Cairo said, describing Houston's relationship with the group. "I think he appreciates that we're interested in him and the work his officers do."
To learn more about MPD's Neighborhood Watch program, call your local precinct. You can learn more at this website.
Kristin Leigh explains how other neighborhoods can form a similar collaboration and earn a grant to get cameras:
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