Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission addresses rash of juvenile shootings

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A plan to reduce crime in Memphis, including juvenile crime, is called Operation Safe Community, but the numbers we found may surprise you.

A 15-step approach to making Memphis Safer has been in the works since 2011, with a special focus on young people.

We went to the head of the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission, Michelle Fowlkes, to see just how much of a difference it’s made in violent juvenile crime.

“When you look at these categories – aggravated assault, murders, robberies – over time, they are basically the same. They may peak a little bit, but they are basically the same,” Fowlkes said.

The crime commission director says there’s a perception that crime is everywhere when it’s really clusters of problems caused by clusters of youth.

“There is a small number of young people committing the crimes. What is occurring, they are committing those crimes over and over again,” Fowlkes said.

She says they’re now targeting more on those groups causing trouble.

It’s already worked in targeted apartment communities where high crime is going down.

Another program also seeing success, Memphis Gun Down, is a plan initiated by Mayor A C Wharton to end gun violence, especially among youth.

So far the program has targeted Frayser, where program directors say juvenile gun violence is down 14 percent, and South Memphis, where it’s down 49 percent.

Now they want to make sure other areas get attention and get their crime numbers down, too.

“When you look at crime prevention you are trying to change the attitudes and beliefs of juveniles and adults as it relates to youth violence and as you know April that is a long-term solution,” Fowlkes said.

Those working with juvenile crime say they’re looking at other cities to see if they’re experiencing the same level of juvenile crime, and determining new approaches to addressing it.


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