SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn.– There has been a huge increase in children committing violent acts as we end 2022. The crimes include car break-ins, vehicle thefts, shootings, carjackings and even murder.
WREG is committed to building a Gun Safe Memphis, and as we approach the new year, we ask what’s being done to turn things around.
“I think we need what I would call a healthy sense of urgency,” Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons said.
From January through September, more than 1,300 juveniles were charged with a crime. That’s a 42% increase compared to the same time last year.
According to the crime commission, almost a third of those children were nabbed for a violent crime, and a majority were for aggravated assault.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said juvenile crime needs to be a main focus in 2023.
“We have thousands of young people that need intense intervention,” Strickland said.
Strickland said he’s working with local law enforcement, juvenile court, the schools and Youth Villages to ask for a piece of a $100 million state grant the governor launched for public safety.
Strickland said essentially, he wants the money to be used to beef up support and services for children headed down the wrong path. He said they will apply for the grant next month.
“And ask them for the manpower, social workers and guidance counselors. Whatever it is to intervene with them,” he said.
Gibbons believes it will help if granted.
Records WREG Investigators uncovered show that children as young as 8 and 9 years old were arrested for weapon violations and assault. A 12-year-old boy was also nabbed for vandalism, and a 14-year-old boy for stealing a car.
Data shows of all the juvenile crime from January through September, 40% involved a child who was a repeat offender, and the crime commission reports 26% of the juveniles arrested for violent crimes already had a violent record.
“We haven’t really be giving them the attention they need,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.
He agreed that the county must focus on intervention.
“The system failed them. There were warning signs early on. We didn’t do much,” Mulroy added.
Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon echoes that. He said he’s working on developing more mentoring services and employment.
He said another issue is that there’s not enough mental health resources. He told us about a child he recently saw who needed help.
“Sent them out to one agency. The agency could not provide services, because the family did not have insurance. Referred them to two other agencies,=. Four months later after this child is waiting to get treated, he commits another offense. A carjacking. These are the kind of issues we need to be intentional about solving,” Sugarmon said.