Youth Villages launches multi-million dollar crime reduction program in Memphis
The goal is to decrease homicides by 30%
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The non-profit Youth Villages has announced the launch of a $60 million dollar program aimed at bringing targeted services to crime-ridden areas in the city, Memphis Allies.
“We’re excited to bring this to Memphis, our hometown,” said Richard Shaw, Chief Development Officer for Youth Villages.
When it comes to violent crime, particularly homicides caused by gun violence, the problem is seen nationwide, but Shaw says Memphis has seen an 81% increase in the last two years.
These targeted services in Memphis Allies are not to just be thrown into the fray.
There’s a core group Shaw and Youth Villages’ teams look to confront.
“In the case of Memphis, it may be 300-500 people committing these crimes,” Shaw said. “We want to make sure we’re working with those people and putting a team of support around them to make better decisions and really change their life trajectory.”
In the next four years, Memphis Allies plans to reach 2,000 youth and adults, ranging from 17-30.
The program invests heavily, well over half of its budget, in these teams Shaw speaks of that will focus on individual participants at a time.
The program lists 210 full time employees, which Shaw says will divide into teams of 7.
“You’ve got outreach specialists, your life coaches, your case managers, and you have therapeutic specialists,” Shaw listed. “It’s a model that we’ve created through doing studies across the country, and we think it’s going to have tremendous impact in reducing violence here.”
Memphis Allies is designed to prevent crimes involving guns from happening, but what of the juveniles and young adults who already commit these crimes?
We use an example from three weeks ago, when a drive-by shooting sent 4-year-old Itali Oakley to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
She was released on Thursday, but her road to recovery is far from over.
The person charged was 17.
“The system is giving these kids access to just a slap on the wrist, when they need to have already been taken care of several months ago,” said Kerbi Oakley, Itali’s mother. “That’s what hurts because this should have been taken care of.”
Shaw says there’s a place for those who’ve already committed these acts.
“What we have to make sure about is if a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old does something to harm someone else in the community that we go back and we figure out when we should have intervened with that young person,” Shaw said. When could we have helped that young person?”
Shaw says while Memphis Allies has this four year timeline in mind, it can serve as a template for long-term change in the city.
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