MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis clarified the department’s plans to enforce a late-night curfew for juveniles downtown as she spoke to city council members Tuesday.

By this summer, MPD hopes to be using the Greenlaw Community Center in the Uptown area as a safe space, where children can be held until they’re reunited with their parents.

It’s not about arresting children, she said, but about keeping kids as young as 6 or 8 off the streets and safe at night, and reuniting them with parents.

“The police department isn’t targeting young people,” Davis said. “At any point in time, you can go downtown on the weekends and you see a number of young people, not just in our downtown space but all over the city, after hours. It’s been concerning for us, not just because these young people are 6, 7, and 8 years old with a 12-year-old sister or brother. For them to just be walking around, we’re concerned about making sure that they’re in a safe place.”

Davis said the department recently acquired the Greenlaw Center and was working on upgrades to use it for juvenile recreation programs at night.

“It would be a safe space for them. It’s not a detention center or anything like that,” she said.

Davis says keeping juveniles off the street at night is especially important for suppressing crime near the downtown area.

“We have a lot of cars broken into and we end up detaining some of our young folks,” Davis said. “And the message is for parents, after 11, 12 o’clock at night, hopefully, you know where your children are.”

Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, said Tuesday morning on WREG’s Live At 9 that the vast majority of Memphians support a nighttime juvenile curfew, but enforcing it is a problem.

Police are left with few options if they spot juveniles out after curfew, he said. Juvenile Court will not, at this point, accept juveniles simply for violating curfew without some crime committed. Sometimes, parents aren’t willing to come to pick up their children late at night.

Gibbons said his office is releasing new juvenile crime data later Tuesday. While he didn’t go into specifics Tuesday morning, he said the trend lines were concerning, and moving in the wrong direction. (See the data)

Councilman Jeff Warren asked Chief Davis about a plan to curb juvenile crime that was included in the city council’s agenda packet Tuesday.

That plan was a rough draft that was not supposed to be released and it was not MPD that supplied it to the council, Assistant Chief Don Crowe told city council members.

MPD officials have been backtracking on a plan, publicized in a pre-recorded video from MPD, that could have targeted juveniles downtown for reasons such as selling candy, inappropriate clothing, or even dancing in the street. It has been put on pause after community outcry.

According to Tennessee state law, there are four juvenile curfew times, Crowe told council members:

  • Sundays through Thursdays, children 16 and under must be home by 10 p.m.; 17-year-olds must be home by 11 p.m.
  • Fridays and Saturdays, 11 p.m. is the curfew for kids 16 and under; midnight for 17-year-olds.

Council member Cheyenne Johnson pointed out that some school events, such as football games, might extend later than curfew.

Davis said the planned measures for juveniles are just a start, and they hope community organizations will step up to help.