Memphis Mayor meets with gang leaders to curb rising murder rate

Memphis Mayor meets with gang leaders to curb rising murder rate

Memphis saw a record 398 homicides last year, up from 190 five years earlier. Tennessee's second-largest city is off to another rough start in 2024 with over 600 serious violent crimes, including 40 killings.

When the Justice Department reported a 17-year high in Memphis violent crime, these concerns were highlighted.

Memphis Mayor Paul Young, who entered office in January with an emphasis on public safety, met with top gang leaders and negotiated a seven-day truce to reduce crime.

“I asked them, ‘Can we get a seven-day ceasefire? CNN station WMC-TV reported that the mayor asked during a youth development panel discussion, "Just seven days without shooting or killing?" They answered, ‘Yeah, we would be willing to do that,’ but with a few conditions.
They wanted guarantees their rival gangs would agree to the truce and help acquiring well-paying employment and training, WMC-TV said.

Young told CNN Saturday that Memphis' chronic auto break-ins are partly caused by gang members' lack of jobs. The Memphis Police Department reported almost 3,500 serious property offenses in January, including those break-ins.

According to Young, some young people steal automobiles for pleasure due to a lack of activities in their areas. “They need income sources.”

Memphis NGO The Collective Blueprint reports that over half of Memphis' 45,000 16-to-24-year-old out-of-school and unemployed youth live in poverty.

The organization claims that only 1% of young adults will earn a living by 28.

Young mentioned a report that supports his ambitions for Memphis' at-risk youngsters, including young gang members, during a panel discussion.

A Chicago research revealed that violent crime arrests among young adults who had jobs or internships dropped 45% in the first year.

Young stated the city did not see any gunshots from the gang leaders who attended the original meeting when asked if he achieved a seven-day truce.

In his weekly briefing on February 23, Young said his administration was utilizing data on criminal behavior “to drive coordinated gang and gun violence intervention programs to neighborhoods of need.”

The city says its violence intervention program targets at-risk individuals who have been affected by gun violence or retaliation.

Street intervention by 901 Bloc Squad certified interventionists encourages good choices and provides access to support programs to modify participants' behavior.

Last month, the 901 Bloc Squad and Heal 901 planned Young's meeting with gang leaders in Memphis.

“You can't change anything without bringing the individuals that are causing the issue,” Heal 901 founder K. Durell Cowan told CNN.

This is one of the poorest cities around. We must shift the narrative and get living-wage employment to decrease crime, Cowan added. “Some gang leaders said, ‘We need something to do.’”

Since July 2021's state open carry legislation made weapons more available, he claimed the city has experienced more violent firearm-related occurrences.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, Tennessee has one of the highest gun-related mortality rates and the 29th strongest gun laws. Cowan says some businesses ban weapons, forcing customers to store them in their cars despite the open carry statute.

“Now, they’re going into vehicles stealing nothing else, just looking for firearms,” Cowan added. City gangs have attracted 8-year-olds and reached “epidemic levels,” he added.

“We just want to stop the cycle,” he stated. “We must act.”

Similar to Young, San Diego and Baltimore mayors have called for gang-related ceasefires to reduce gun violence.

Cowan believes a Memphis gang truce is doable, but with at least 30 hybrid groups that have sprouted from five gangs that formerly ruled the streets, it will require more than one meeting.

Because of such complexities, he can't meet with leaders once and see citywide transformation. Cowan indicated these meetings will continue.

Young said Memphis city council members pledged to assist youth-changing groups at a Friday budget meeting.

“We’ll find those resources and make the necessary investments,” he added.

The problems of our community are not new... We must lean in and make it happen, Young added. “This will be a living dialogue.”

Read the original article here.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Leave A Comment
    1 out of ...