Top crime fighters ask for community’s help battling juvenile crime

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 10:53 PM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Kids are committing violent crimes at an alarming rate in Memphis and Shelby County, and there’s no easy fix for what ails the community.

But the head of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission said he knows where to start.

“We do have a real challenge when it comes to juvenile crime in our community,” Bill Gibbons said on Tuesday after talking with the Memphis City Council about crime trends.

Gibbons, the current Crime Commission boss and former Shelby County District Attorney General, said by year’s end, 1,800 juveniles will have been charged with a crime.

”Of that 1,800 or so,” Gibbons said, “about 500 will be charged with serious crimes. So that is very disturbing.”

The top crimes being committed by young people right now, according to the Crime Commission, are aggravated assault, carjacking and aggravated robbery.

Memphis’ problem with car thefts and car break-ins can also be attributed to law-breaking kids.

Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis says MPD can’t tackle the juvenile crime problem alone.

”Parents should help us,” said Chief Davis. “We want parents to be more aware of where their children are at two and three o’clock in the morning. A 14 or 15-year-old should be at home. People think the police are babysitters, and we are not.”

Gibbons said The Boys and Girls Club and Memphis Athletic Ministries offer school-based programs to engage kids and keep them out of trouble.

Community agencies, he said, are stepping up, too.

“A lot of parents need that help,” he said. “Either because they don’t know what’s going on or because they can’t really control their children by themselves, they need some help.”

Gibbons also says Tennessee needs to build a new residential facility for troubled teens.

Right now, there’s only one: Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County.

”It is antiquated. It is understaffed. And it can only hold about 35 juveniles at a time,” Gibbons said.

Even with a new facility, he said the vast majority of serious youth offenders are going to be under community supervision.

Shelby County, he said, needs a more comprehensive community supervision program.

“We’ve got to have a system of intensive supervision day to day,” Gibbons said. “We don’t have that now. And data shows 25% of the most violent offenders will commit another crime.”

City and county leaders say it’s time for the village to take care of its children.

“We are in a situation where we need everybody’s help,” said Chief Davis. “We just ask that our public help us with young people who are committing crimes. If you know, talk about it, talk to somebody. We’re not interested in arresting a bunch of children. But we are interested in making sure their lives are protected because much of what they’re doing is very dangerous.”

Current state guidelines also say once a young offender turns 19, they’re released from the juvenile system without any follow-up or supervision.

Gibbons said that rule needs to be changed in order to prevent teens from falling back into a life of crime.

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