APU Public Administration Graduate Student Develops Creative Solution to Memphis Crime
Start a public administration degree at American Public University.
By Stephen Schwalbe
Faculty Member, Public Administration, American Public University
In addition to providing its students with a valuable education, American Public University (APU) fosters ways to effect positive changes in the country, community and the world.
APU orients some courses so that students’ research can develop novel ways of solving some of society’s problems. For example, courses in the public administration program give students the opportunity to work on actual issues.
This practical experience is most evident in the capstone program. In this program, graduate students write a thesis or prepare a project presentation for public policy makers that addresses an existing community problem.
One graduate course in public administration that facilitates this kind of academic exercise is Public Finance (PADM612). The mid-term assignment consists of a media project. For this assignment, students are asked to prepare an executive summary and a three-minute video for a county administrator or mayor proposing ways to resolve a budget or civic issue in some manner.
Graduate Student Project Finds Funds to Ease Memphis Crime Problem
In 2016, a student named Glenn Harvey, Jr. decided to help his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, combat its growing crime problem. His research determined that all categories of crime in the city were increasing, especially homicides.
This disturbing trend was exacerbated by an evolving personnel shortage in the Memphis Police Department (MPD). Glenn found that 432 officers were departing and only 200 were in training to replace them.
In addition, the number of incoming graduate police officers would be offset, however, by 125 additional officers who were about to retire. Glenn calculated that it would take five years for the MPD to reach the proper number of law enforcement officers needed for a city the size of Memphis.
SkyCop Surveillance Cameras Improved Security Surveillance in Poor Memphis Neighborhoods
Many of the wealthier communities in Memphis improved their security by hosting fundraisers to purchase SkyCop surveillance cameras for their neighborhoods. However, the poorer, minority neighborhoods were unable to take this approach.
In 2016, Mayor Jim Strickland and the City Council initiated a Sentinel Program with a budget of $35,000 to purchase some SkyCop cameras for those poorer neighborhoods. However, the amount was far short of how much money was really needed.
For his project, Glenn reviewed the municipal budget to find ways to transfer funds to the Sentinel Program so that the city could buy more SkyCop cameras. He noted that the city library system had a budget in excess of $18 million to operate 17 branches in Shelby County. Glenn calculated that if the library system transferred just $2 million to law enforcement, that amount of money could pay for an additional 250 SkyCop cameras to help fight crime throughout Memphis.
Once Glenn received feedback from his instructor on his work, he was encouraged to submit his solution to the city for consideration. The Mayor’s office gave Glenn permission to forward his executive summary and three-minute video directly to Mayor Strickland and the City Council.
Two months later, hundreds of SkyCop cameras began to go up in the poorer communities. We don’t know for sure whether the cameras came about as a result of Glenn’s suggested solution, but the end result was better police surveillance, which was everyone’s goal.
While we cannot be certain of the impact of Glenn’s work on Mayor Strickland and the City Council, it is most likely that they were familiar with his work and potentially influenced by it, as Glenn is a citizen of Memphis trying to improve the city’s security.
Students at APU and other institutions of higher learning have the potential to positively impact their communities. Courses like PADM612 and enthusiastic students can make a difference.
About the Author
Dr. Stephen Schwalbe is an associate professor at American Public University. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia College. Stephen received a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Public Policy from Auburn University in 2006.