Phelps Security is a prime example of how a company finds its place in a community while focusing on how best to serve.
Phelps Security is a third-generation company that started in 1953. Patti Phelps and her late husband, Lloyd, bought the company in the early 1980s from his father. Patti Phelps has been CEO since 1995 and is joined in the business by her children, Alan Phelps, Jennifer Phelps Mack and Andrew Phelps.
Back in the early 1980s the company had a few security officers. Today, Phelps Security is a certified woman owned business with over 300 employees who serve a 50-mile radius of Memphis, offering commercial security services, as well as security patrols for residential communities.
The company added a community focus in 2010 when the Phelps decided they wanted to be part of a Memphis turnaround.
“We heard people speak negatively about our community. Our children already were involved in our business and we thought that if we speak negative about our city, how can we grow it for generations to come,” Phelps said. “We had seen several Blue CRUSH presentations from the Memphis Police Department where they share important data and detail their proactive plans to fight crime. As we were deciding what we could do to help, we thought that business leaders really needed to see these reports and have a better understanding of what was going on directly from the MPD Colonels themselves.”
Blue CRUSH is a data-driven approach to crime fighting that started in 2005. The effort uses information the Memphis Police Department gathers to determine local crime hotspots and then devise plans and deploy resources to combat the issues. Phelps Security collaborated with individuals within the Memphis Police Department and created B.I.G. for Memphis, which stands for Business Interest Group for Memphis. On the last Wednesday of each month, seven Memphis precinct colonels appear at B.I.G. for Memphis meetings to give abbreviated Blue CRUSH data presentations.
It’s the type of information neighborhood watches typically find valuable and present to their community residents, but it’s also information that’s important to the business community.
“Business leaders want to know what types of crimes are in their areas,” Phelps said. “This empowers them with accurate, timely information and tips they can share with their employees and also enables them to develop relationships with the colonel in their business and home precincts. That way, if they have an issue, they already know the command staff.”
The meetings also feature a speaker, someone who can highlight positive things in Memphis or provide an educational opportunity.
It was through a B.I.G. for Memphis speaker that Patti Phelps learned about the Commission on Missing and Exploited Children (COMEC), an organization that promotes the safety and protection of children. Patti Phelps now serves on the COMEC board of directors.
Patti Phelps also serves on the board of directors of Crime Stoppers of Memphis and Shelby County; and Phelps Security supports the organization as its golf tournament title sponsor.
If the organizations Phelps Security and its leaders choose to support seem to have a natural connection to the company’s mission, it’s not a coincidence. Phelps Security’s wheelhouse is protection in the community and protecting the well-being of its clients.
“Absolutely, that’s how we chose to start B.I.G. for Memphis,” Patti Phelps said. “Because of the work we do, we were privy to information others didn’t have or have access to regarding the protection of our community. We see the Blue CRUSH presentations as a way to educate and empower people with what’s actually happening and being done to fight crime. All we typically see in the news or on social media is the bad, but these presentations show you the good, offer tips and solutions, and also provide updates on arrests, too. We feel like we need to talk more about the good things in our city and arm people with positive and helpful information they can take back to their offices and families to share even further.”
“Come out to an event and you’ll see, it’s much more than just presenting crime statistics,” Phelps said. Many refer to it as “Patti’s soapbox,” but she believes that theft from motor vehicles – one of the highest crime rates in Memphis – also is preventable.
“We should hide our things in the trunk before arriving at our destination; and not leave them sitting out in our cars,” she said. “We cannot put things in our cars and then go back into a store because criminals are watching and will break into our cars. We have to take responsibility and realize we can do simple things to better protect ourselves. If we each can better protect ourselves with simple, small changes, it will make our crime rate better overall, as well. It only makes sense to push for that, so I never fail to talk about Stow It, Don’t Show It in B.I.G. for Memphis.”
Giving back to the community is part of Phelps Security’s DNA, dating back to Lloyd Phelps’ more than 20 years of service as a Shelby County Sheriff’s Reserve deputy.
Alan Phelps followed his father’s footsteps when he became a reserve deputy in 2004. The role gives him the opportunity to serve as an auxiliary officer during times of tragedy. He volunteers between 800 and 900 hours per year.
“My father was on the training division, so growing up as a kid I got hooked pretty quickly,” Alan Phelps said. “I saw him do it and always wanted to do it, as well. Some buddies in high school joined the military. I think my fight is the fight for our home front. It could be locking up a bad guy or helping someone find their lost kid, but I enjoy being able to make a difference here in my hometown.”
Related to a desire to support local law enforcement, Phelps Security’s leadership is involved in the creation of the Fallen Officer Memorial. When complete, the monument will be a memorial to those Memphis Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff’s officers who have lost their lives protecting the community.
“Lloyd felt that as big of a city as we are, it’s something that needs to happen,” Patti Phelps said. “It was a natural fit for us. Every day my husband went to work for free as a reserve deputy and I never knew if he would come home. Those are the sacrifices the day your loved one puts on a uniform. You don’t know if they’re coming home. Not only did these officers sacrifice their lives, but their families also make sacrifices.”
Phelps Security encourages their employees to get involved in the community, in part through organizing events. But there’s also a realization that with the majority of the more than 300 employees being security officers, schedules are a challenge.
“They have demanding shifts already, but they still find the time to contribute to our company efforts because they care so deeply about our city and citizens,” Phelps said.
Opportunities include canned-food drives and paycheck contributions to the Mid-South Food Bank that are matched by the company. Employees participate in Angel Tree gift programs, adopt families at the holidays and participate in other community efforts as they arise.
Patti Phelps said that when she and her husband first started operating the business they were just focused on making it work. But they soon realized there were needs within the community where their company’s focus aligned and they could use their resources to help.
“We always want to do something to make a difference for our city and have found the more we reach out to our contacts, the more we can do together,” she said. “Other businesses have their own resources, talents, and contacts. I believe when they use those gifts for good and find their own niche, they’ll feel rewarded.”
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