Neighborhood Plagued by Truant Students

(Memphis) Neighbors in a Berclair community are frustrated at the crimes committed by students skipping class at nearby Northeast Prep Academy.

Families on Given Avenue said teenagers roam the streets and trespass on their properties before, during and after school hours, Monday through Friday.

“Jumping over fences, sneaking into driveways, rattling car door handles, gambling on the streets, rolling dice, dealing drugs, fights, it’s just amazing,” said Joe Kirkland.

Kirkland said one of his neighbors actually shot at a young man who was urinating in her backyard.

Kirkland has also once stopped a burglary in progress.

“I went out there and said hey, you all need to run off. They ran back in, grabbed the guns out of the people’s house, and backed up onto curb, tried to run me over,” he said.

White shirts often worn as part of the MCS uniform hang on people’s fences as students change out of their clothes when cutting class. One homeowner actually built a wooden extension to keep kids away from the back door.

Neighbors said they’ve witnessed savage beatings and drugs sold and used in the middle of the street.

“We’re tired of the dice games on the corner, we’re tired of – we don’t want to see their underwear,” said one man, who didn’t want his identity revealed. “We’re tired of a lack of response from the city. You know, we called different various agencies, they pass the buck, and nothing gets done here.”

He and some others feel the school should be moved.

“To President’s Island,” he said.

But residents understand it’s somewhat out of the school’s control if it’s off campus.

“You feel bad for them, what they’re doing with their own lives, and the way that they’re affecting the lives of the people around them,” one woman said.

Memphis City Schools told News Channel 3 in a statement:

“Our Memphis City Schools truancy and security officers have been integral components of a comprehensive strategy for reducing the truancy rate not only in the NE Region, but across the city.  This success is shared with collaboration with MPD, the Attorney General’s Office, and Juvenile Court.  MPD Precincts across the city and especially in the NE Region are reporting a reduction in daytime burglaries as a result of these efforts.  MCS staff works diligently to ensure the safety of our students and staff, as well as our school communities.”

In the last month, Memphis police have recorded 19 incidents on Given Avenue including seven arrests, and 14 incidents on Durbin and Owen streets including four arrests.

Some of those arrested were juveniles.