MEMPHIS, Tenn.— When blue lights cover a neighborhood, the 901 BLOC Squad is there to cover for the kids.
"We do a lot of crime scene response, mentoring and we work with juvenile court. We got mentors that go in the courtroom with the kids and help them as an alternative or incarcerations," supervisor Delvin Lane said.
BLOC stands for Better Lives, Opportunities and Communities. Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael knows how much this staff means to Memphis.
“When I look up from the bench and see a child with a 901 bloc squad member behind him, I've got resources because I know those mentors have that child and they're going to really hold on to him and keep him out of trouble,” Michael said.
Lane said the group started with a grant and at one point had 20 people on staff. He expected about $900,000 from City Hall this year, but only got about half.
“We’re at a point now the funding is running low. We had to cut half the team. Come October, the funding will run out if we don’t find new options,” Lane said.
City officials said they first heard about the BLOC Squad’s financial troubles last month but they had to wait to act.
Memphis spokesperson Ursula Madden released a statement today:
"The leadership of 901 BLOC Squad presented the likelihood of this funding problem back in June. We told them then that we would wait to hear from them on specifics of their financial picture, so that we could ensure the right amount of City financial support would come to enable them to carry on with their work.
Also, we could not release money while internal audit was investigating an allegation against 901 BLOC Squad. The audit showed no wrongdoing however, they have been working over the last six months to strengthen their controls. Now that those controls are in place, we can release funding.
Make no mistake about it, we are committed to funding 901 BLOC Squad and absolutely plan to get the money to them so that they can continue their important work."
Without the help, Lane said they’ll have to turn to private donations.
A lot of the BLOC Squad are former gang members. They said so far they've responded to more than 100 shootings and manage 225 cases.