One former police officer is using his old north Memphis high school to fight juvenile crime
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One former Memphis Police officer is using football to fight juvenile crime in the Bluff City.
It’s a fight he’s been tackling for over three decades.
Saturday morning, some future high school football players will hit the gridiron at Christian Brothers High School.
It’s the Memphis Shelby Police Activity League, better known as the PAL football jamboree.
The founder of this league is a former police officer and Shelby County Sheriff, Deputy Craig Littles.
Next week he’ll be kicking off another program to help keep kids off the streets.
It’s a program he started at Trezevant High School in 2018 called the Youth Academy of Dreams.
Littles asked for space at his old high school to create an after-school program for up to 200 kids across the city.
“To me, what’s missing is having quality, safe programs but also connecting with these kids. Kids don’t really trust a lot. They’re looking for trusting adults,” said Littles.
It’s a safe haven of sorts with a computer lab, gaming room, plus intervention and mentoring programs.
The space is open from the moment school ends until 8 o’clock at night, including on weekends.
As a former law enforcement officer, he knows that’s when kids get in the most trouble.
Within a quarter of a mile of Trezevant High School, Memphis Police data shows there have been well over 40 reported crimes within the past 90 days.
Littles grew up in this neighborhood and graduated from Trezevant.
“My role models were dope dealers and gang bangers, but someone saw a positive side of me and introduced me to sports, and from there, it changed my whole mindset,” said Littles.
Littles is also the founder of the Memphis Shelby Police Activity League, a league created over 30 years ago for one specific mission of lowering juvenile crime.
It’s grown to over 2,000 kids in various sports such as track, flag football, basketball, and soon lacrosse.
It also includes 300 volunteer coaches and parents like Marie Parker.
“Because I’ve had different relationships with kids, especially as a track and cheer coach, and for them to come to me and be able to talk to me about certain things that they say they can’t even talk to their parents about it means a lot,” said Parker who also serves as the fundraising coordinator for PAL.
Littles says 2 to 3 children he mentors every year are murdered, but he’s consoled by the thousands of children he’s saved by offering a safe environment through sports and after-school programs right in their community.
In honor of Littles, next weekend will be the first-ever “Craig Littles Be Massive Classic.”
It’s a game against two North Memphis friendly rivals, Littles’ alma mater Trezevant High School versus Raleigh Egypt High School at Crump Stadium.
The two schools have not played each other since 2018.
The game is Saturday, September 3rd and 3 pm.
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