Kids on youth violence in Memphis: It’s a jungle

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kids are shooting and getting shot, and many think the city is not doing enough to stop it.

Mayor A C Wharton held a private staff meeting Tuesday morning with MPD Director Toney Armstrong to discuss the recent rash of youth violence in the city.

But who better to talk about youth violence than youth? WREG spoke to kids who said they are scared to go out in their own neighborhoods and don’t trust police protect them.

They told News Channel 3 many juveniles get guns to protect themselves, because they don’t think the police will.

15-year-old Derrion Childs told WREG, “You’ve got to be safe out here in Frayser. It’s dangerous out here. It’s a jungle.”

Childs is growing up on these streets, even if he doesn’t always feel safe doing it.

“I don’t think they’re doing enough,” Childs said of police.

“What do you think they need to be doing?” a WREG reporter asked.

“Be out here trying to put it back together,” he said. “Get our society right.”

Wharton met with his staff and Armstrong Tuesday. He said they’re working to expand youth programs, and police will be assessing where they need more patrols.

Marron Thomas with the Leadership Empowerment Center said it’s not enough.

“The police have to be firm, but they have to care about the kids as well,” he said. “We don’t want incidents that took place in Missouri.”

Teens tell WREG gang initiation happens around this time every year, and many feel like it’s their only option.

One recent high school graduate, Eddie James, said, “It all comes from the home. Say if your brother’s been gang-banging his whole life, you’re gonna want to do the same thing he does.”

If that’s true, Thomas wants to know why police and the city don’t prepare for it ahead of time, instead of leaving kids feeling like they have no way out.

“There has to be a plan that’s different than the plans that we’ve had in the past in order to truly, truly impact this city,” he said.

Wharton said police presence will increase as early as this weekend. He also announced increased funding for the midnight youth basketball program.

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