Group violence intervention program will target at-risk Memphis youth

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It helped cut crime significantly in other cities. Could it be the solution Memphis has been looking for?

The city’s new group violence intervention program is getting off the ground.

From law enforcement to prosecutors to neighborhood activists, many groups are fighting crime in Memphis.

But they’re not always on the same page.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland picked Joy Touliatos, a former juvenile court clerk, to coordinate efforts between the various groups, as head of the city’s new group violence intervention program.

“It’s the first time that everybody is working together in a coordinated way for all of us to reduce violence in the city,” said Touliatos.

The coordination will allow them to focus on the small number of people, mostly young people, that crime analysts say commit most of the violence in Memphis.

“We’re going to offer them support. We’re going to offer them resources and services, and we’re hoping they’re going to accept that offer,” said Touliatos. “If they don’t, then we’ll be watching them and they’ll have to answer to those consequences.”

The National Gang Center says cities that implement group violence intervention programs typically see a 35 to 60 percent reduction in homicides.

The Memphis City Council approved $2 million for the program, which Toutliatos says will be used to hire staff as well as more intervention and outreach workers for groups like 901 Bloc Squad.

“The more that are out there, the more people that know what’s going on in the community, we can prevent some of the violence that’s happening,” said Touliatos.

901 Bloc Squad members, like former gang member Delvin Lane, visit crime scenes and work with at-risk youth.

“I want these kids to understand that they don’t have to live a life of crime, go to prison,” said Lane. “They can be productive citizens in our community.”

The program officially launches on July 1.

City leaders say it will take everyone, whether they are official members of GVIP or not, working to reduce violent crime in Memphis.

Memphis is not the only city seeing a surge in crime.

President Joe Biden plans to address rising violence in a speech on Wednesday.

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