MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis Police Department program aimed the reducing youth crime downtown has been put on pause.
The President of the Downtown Memphis Commission, Paul Young, said more discussions are needed.
“We found out about the program on Friday and we reached out and talked to them, had a few questions and we wanted to understand about its implementation. They have agreed to pause the program until they have further discussions with DMC and other stakeholders,” Young said.
In a pre-recorded video, MPD announced it created a Juvenile Crime Abatement Program for downtown. A leaked document revealed officers could target juveniles for reasons such as selling candy, inappropriate clothing, or even dancing in the street.
District Attorney Steven Mulroy said he also wants to talk with MPD about this program.
“Don’t want to give the impression that youth aren’t welcome downtown. We certainly don’t want to give police licenses to hassle youth just for being around, or dancing or something like that. But if they are causing an actual disturbance, then, obviously,” Mulroy said.
According to the document, if parents or guardians refuse to pick up their children, they could be turned over to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the parents could face child abandonment charges which Mulroy’s office would have to prosecute.
“My initial inclination is to be very cautious about bringing criminal charges against parents if what’s happened if their kids went downtown and they were dancing and just sort of hanging out,” Mulroy said.
With the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs and Memphis in May around the corner plus the other festivals happening this time of year, Young said it is important for everyone to have a clear understanding.
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“Our biggest goal is to make sure that everyone is welcomed and so our goal is to reach out to MPD have those discussions and make sure it is being implemented in a way so that people can enjoy all that downtown has to offer,” Young said.
Chief Davis said in a statement Monday afternoon that contrary to the report that they will be targeting juveniles, the department is having discussions about curfew enforcement downtown, saying:
“The Memphis Police Department is currently working to develop a citywide plan to address a myriad of problems, which will promote a safe and enjoyable environment throughout our city this summer. Contrary to the report that MPD will be targeting juveniles, the department is having initial discussions with key stakeholders regarding a collaborative approach to curfew enforcement downtown. A reoccurring concern has been the increase in the number of children, as young as 8 and 10 years old, unaccompanied by an adult, wandering in the downtown entertainment district after dark. As a part of the summer plan, MPD will enforce the current curfew ordinance. It is our intent to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our young people by quickly reuniting them with a parent or legal guardian. To avoid encounters with the police, we encourage parents to always monitor the whereabouts of their children to ensure their safety. “
Young plans to meet with Chief CJ Davis later this week.