Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich addresses the merits of the 901WRAP program. Pictured (l-r): Shelby County Commission Chairman Willie Brooks Jr.; Weirich; MPD Lt. Therman Richardson; CrimeStoppers Executive Director Buddy Chapman; Dr. Bill Adkins, pastor of Greater Imani Church/The Cathedral of Faith Raleigh; Bill Gibbons, president Memphis Shelby Crime Commission; County Commissioner Mick Wright, and County Commissioner Amber Mills. (Courtesy photo)

Law enforcement, criminal justice and religious leaders Tuesday (April 12) announced the launching of a program to help solve crimes and to protect witnesses who help convict criminals.

901WRAP, said to be the first of its kind in the state, is designed to help witnesses feel safe enough to share crucial information that could be key to solving crimes.

During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, officials called the program a game-changer in getting dangerous criminals off the streets, especially regarding homicides 

901WRAP has been enacted in Memphis police investigative cases and, already, the program is working. 

The project, envisioned by Dr. Bill Adkins, pastor of Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith, was nearly a year in the making.

“The 901WRAP stands for Witness Relocation and Assistance Program,” said Adkins, in a phone interview on Wednesday April 13). “People don’t come forward with information because they are afraid. 

“But if we can relocate them to a safe place, they will tell what they know. Already, the program is working. In the interest of security, that’s all I can say.”

Last June, Adkins first mentioned the program in a similar press event, announcing that he would kick off funding with a $10,000 donation on behalf of Greater Imani. 

Law enforcement principals were on board, but the primary issue was funding.

Since that time, Shelby County commissioners backed the program with an additional $150,000. 

Tuesday, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner joined Adkins, along with Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and county commissioners.

Shelby County Commissioner Mick Wright said 901WRAP is an issue on which the entire County Commission is united, despite their differing political views. 

Adkins said crime fighting is not only the job of law enforcement, but also “citizens of the community” must be willing to step forward. 

Adkins said everyone must say they are “fed up” with all this killing. Ordinary citizens can make the difference, he said.

Adkins got the idea from a similar initiative in Los Angeles. An Imani member, who was a Memphis police detective at the time, sent him information on the program. Adkins thought it could work for Memphis, and he wanted to see it implemented. 

“Last year, we had a second record-breaking year in homicides,” said Adkins. “My member, who was also an MPD detective, said that there were 11 or 12 guys who police knew had committed two or three homicides. But police couldn’t do anything because no one would come forward and testify against them.”

Adkins saw how the program worked in Los Angeles and thought, “What if witnesses could be moved to someplace safe, and feel protected from any threat or retaliation? How would that affect the rate of unsolved homicides?”

In less than four months into 2022, there already have been 137 homicides; 40 percent of them unsolved. 

Adkins thinks 901WRAP could help solve some of those cases. 

Under the program, victims and witnesses who come forward and agree to testify in a criminal trial, but fear retaliation, enter the program and are re-located to a secret location out of harm’s way during a trial. 

The initiative is designed to make them feel free of intimidation and threats.

“Certain details still have to be ironed out,” said Adkins. “But 901WRAP is already helping. We need support from the community. We are asking churches, businesses, community organizations and individuals to support 901WRAP with donations.”

Weirich said police officers and sheriff’s deputies are being trained to identify victims and witnesses, who may need relocating for protection.

Donations may be made to the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.