In 1998, our department launched the first Murfreesboro Police precincts in the Franklin and Highland Heights housing areas. The success of these operations has been the source of much community pride over the past several years.
On April 15, 1998, we opened Franklin and Highland Heights Police precincts at full staff. At that time, we began with one (1) active partnership with the Murfreesboro Housing Authority. Their first mission was to clean up the neighborhood for the children and residents of those communities. Assigned officers held several meetings involving members of the community on how to attack the drug problems, criminal trespassing, and enforcement of leasing agreements with the Murfreesboro Housing Authority.
Officers met with the Murfreesboro Housing Authority to discuss expectations. Through a newsletter, residents were informed that the police intended to make the housing areas a safe neighborhood for the community, to enforce the law 100% and have ZERO tolerance for drug offenses. At this time, residents were still afraid to talk with the officers. A few days after the newsletter was distributed, officers started their ZERO tolerance program. They made several drug, criminal trespassing and other arrests as well as served outstanding warrants. Murfreesboro Housing backed these officer initiatives 100% and imposed seventy-two (72) hour evictions on all tenants charged with drug offenses and major crimes.
Residents soon observed that they could sit on their front porches and let their children play outside without a drug dealer standing in their front yard. No gunshots, stabbings or fights were occurring without someone going to jail.
With the neighborhood safety improved, partnerships started growing rapidly. Officers worked to sell the community-policing program to as many people as possible. Many times, they would have to bring in teachers and other people of the community and let them observe the safety of these areas. Often, no one would believe officers until they spent a little time within the community. Once visitors experienced the housing areas with precincts, they started bringing their friends and neighbors. Soon thereafter, Murfreesboro City schools started an adult education and preschool, which has tripled in size in recent years. The adult education is a large program. Facilities were established to provide opportunities for both parents and children to have access to computer classes in preparation for work world challenges. The YMCA also joined along with the Department of Human Services. We now have Murfreesboro Police, Murfreesboro City Schools, Project Go from Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, Adult Education, YMCA and the Department of Human Services all in the same building. This program has come a long way in just two (2) years. Officers have made over 500 contacts and initiated several outside partnerships. A few of the outside partnerships include Murfreesboro Fire, Local Churches, Tennessee National Guard, Rutherford County Sheriffs Department, Albertson's, Murfreesboro Senior Citizen Center, Middle Tennessee Medical Center, Salvation Army, Room In the Inn, Boys and Girls Club, Staples, the Juvenile Court system, City Schools Truancy program, the Junior League, United Way, and the list could go on and on. From the list above, you can see that children have been an important part of the improvements at Franklin and Highland Heights.
These operations were nominated for the "Best Practices Award" during the HUD convention in Kansas City in 1999. The Preschool has also won several awards due to the learning curves of its children this year. Murfreesboro Housing has added new cameras to each precinct this year giving each area four (4) cameras that are recorded 24 hours a day. NOTE: This is the first public housing operation that has installed security cameras. New playground equipment, blacktop, speed bumps, air conditioners, fencing, drink machines and payphones have also been installed.
As a result of the police presence in Franklin and Highland Heights, there is anecdotal evidence that calls for service from Murfreesboro Fire, Rutherford County Sheriffs Office and the Rutherford County Emergency Medical Service have been reduced drastically since 1998. Caseloads for assigned officers have decreased significantly in these areas as well.