MPD says Memphis families and communities need to step up

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 8:43 PM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - 2023 has already been a violent, crime-ridden year for Memphis.

Thousands of cars have been stolen or stolen from and dozens of people have been shot.

These are the stats that Memphis Police Deputy Chief Paul Wright sees happening in our city.

“It’s hard to tell a person that you’re going to be safe when you have these incidents happening around you,” Wright said.

The age of the offenders is almost as concerning as the crimes themselves.

The age of the shooting in South Memphis on Monday, killing two and injuring another two, was committed by a 17-year-old.

The solution that MPD has laid out is working closer with Shelby County Juvenile Court.

“We have recently been meeting with our juvenile court official and plan to have case review meetings... especially with our repeat offender cases,” said MPD Chief CJ Davis and Memphis City Council last week.

According to Tennessee law, there is a curfew statewide for juveniles.

Kids can’t be out no later than 11p.m. Monday-Thursday and no later than 12a.m. on Friday-Sunday.

It’s loosely enforced, and part of the reason has to do with staffing.

MPD has “just a little bit above” 1,900 officers, and the full-staff number is 2,300.

Finding kids in Memphis breaking curfew “causes us to have an officer sit with them until DCS can get there or their parents can come,” said Wright.

Deputy Chief Wright casts part of the blame for juvenile crime on Memphis families.

“It’s easy for me to identify a juvenile walking down the street at 1 o’clock in the morning or 2 o’clock in the morning. Why didn’t the parent identify the problem? It all goes back to the family, whether you’re a parent or a guardian. You should always stay engaged with your child,” the Deputy Chief said.

We asked Wright if parents should be fined or held criminally responsible for the actions of their children, a concept that was picked up in neighboring cities like Jackson, MS.

Wright deferred the question.

“I don’t want to comment on laws that we need to design,” Wright said. “People, the community, the politicians, that’s what they do. I enforce law and whatever law that you want.”

With the spike in crime and the violence the Bluff City has seen in this year and years prior, we asked if there’s been an impact on recruiting and retaining officers.

Though we weren’t given a direct “yes” or “no” answer, Wright seemed optimistic about MPD’s staffing future.

“I think some of these people see this as an opportunity to be part of the change,” Wright said. Do you see spurts of employment or hiring? I would say yes. I would say you see people come in when things get bad. You see people come in, and their whole goal is to be part of the change.”

We’ve been in contact with Shelby County juvenile court to give them an opportunity to speak on these conversations with MPD and getting a handle on the spike in juvenile crime.

A representative with Judge Tarik Sugarmon’s office said they would grant us an interview Thursday.

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