Kids say more community centers will curb youth violence

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Children created a plan to fight youth violence in Memphis. They want more youth centers to help solve the problem.

Nearly 100 kids came out to the city's first "kids-only" youth violence prevention forum at New Director Christian Church in Hickory Hill Tuesday.

WREG was allowed in for the first 15 minutes at the forum. We watched children of all ages get into small groups, trying to figure out their plan to combat youth violence.

All adults were then kicked out, including the handful of Memphis police officers who showed up for support. They stood outside until the event wrapped up.

"No adults were allowed," the city's Youth Services Director James Nelson said. "That was created by [the kids who organized the event]. They wanted this opportunity to be transparent with each other. They wanted  people to be engaged. They didn't want anything to distract them."

After it was over, kids told WREG the solution they came up with: more community centers

"I think it is mainly about the youth centers. Like how we can build one up," 17-year-old Shannon Walton said.

"Build more community centers and have amusement parks, so we can get kids off the streets during the weekend," 15-year-old Masharian Jones said. "I feel like we don't have a lot to do, so we feel like we can go out and hurt others."

WREG found out the city has 24 community centers throughout the city. That's not including the hang-outs set up by non-profits.

Kids said the problem is some aren't within walking distance from their homes, or they don't know about them.

"We should listen to our children more, because my grandsons tell me sometimes nobody listens. It is a good thing the city wants to listen to what the children have to say," said Ada Binion, who dropped her two grandsons off at the forum.

From recent mobs of teens attacking at Kroger and after football games, kids said they're fed up.

"The children in those gangs, they are not getting what they actually need. They are getting to the point where they are hurting people to feel the pain they are feeling," Jones said.

"I go to Central High, and the recent riots happened at Central. I don't think it is necessary, and we need to come together and stop it," 16-year-old Reginold Kelley said.

Everything discussed at the forum will be turned over to Mayor A C Wharton. He assures WREG he will have a concrete plan to stop youth violence by the end of the year.

Mayor Wharton was a no-show at the forum. His staff said, "He was set to be there for opening remarks only, but had a series of meetings that ran over and he couldn't make it."

Nelson collected the ideas from Tuesday's event to give to the mayor.

There will be three more "kid only" forums:

- October 8 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Memphis Athletics Ministries Grizzlies Center

- October 9 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Bridges USA

- October 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Frist Baptist Church Broad in conjunction with the annual HBCU College Fair

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