Memphis mayor, House speaker talk crime prevention, laws in Tennessee

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 11:02 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The answer to Memphis’ crime challenge includes more engagement with young people and toughening sentencing for violent criminals, according to one city and one state leader.

Three teens were injured in a shootout at Balmoral shopping center next door to Ridgeway High School last week.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says if Ridgeway had a Boys & Girls Club on campus as Craigmont High School does, violence like the after-school shooting would be less likely.

“If every child could have a Boys & Girls Club, they would turn their lives around. So, we’re using some of the federal money that we got and we’re putting it into 10 additional high schools,” Strickland said Thursday.

The mayor ultimately would like to see Boys & Girls Clubs inside all 30 public high schools in the city of Memphis.

“We also need to do a better job of juvenile crime and juvenile intervention, and we do agree with General Weirich, and the mayor, and the local law enforcement that we need to have programs that reduce juvenile crime because we really aren’t doing a great job of it as a state,” said Tennessee speaker of the House, Cameron Sexton.

Sexton has met with Strickland, the district attorney, the police chief, and Shelby County sheriff, and heard their top legislative priority this year, including toughening sentences for violent offenders like Justin Johnson, one of the men accused of killing rapper Young Dolph.

The mayor notes in 2017, Johnson shot up a Memphis bowling alley, wounding four people.

“He only got six months in prison. Now, that man has been arrested for the murder of Young Dolph. So, it has real consequences in Memphis when people are given slaps on the wrist for the wrongful use of guns,” Strickland said.

While the mayor and the speaker are far apart on their views of gun legislation that would allow Tennesseans 18 to 20 years old to carry guns without a permit, they’re on the same page when it comes to tougher laws against violent offenders.

“We’re going to continue to work with them,” said Sexton. “We’re going to work with the sheriff, and the police chief, and the city mayor, and the county mayor, and anyone else that’s willing to work. But you should have the relationship to work together and I have that with Mayor Strickland and a lot of elected officials in the Memphis area.”

Sexton said Strickland is the lone mayor who travels not only to the state capitol but to each West Tennessee state Senate and House district to meet lawmakers on their turf and foster relationships that benefit all, especially Memphis.

For his part, Sexton has made numerous trips to Memphis to speak with elected leaders and better understand the city’s needs.

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