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VOL. 127 | NO. 107 | Friday, June 1, 2012

New Efforts Target Youth Gun Violence

By Bill Dries

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When someone is shot and wounded in South Memphis, a team of Memphis Police officers will go to the shooting victim in the hospital and his or her friends and family as another team of officers investigates the crimes itself.

The new team of 30 officers that begins training in August will talk to the victim and others around the victim about not retaliating.

The Retaliatory Violence Insight Project is one of the first three initiatives by the city’s Innovation Delivery Team, a City Hall working group funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies with $4.8 million through October 2014 to work toward the goals of cutting gun violence in the city and increasing small-business growth in targeted neighborhoods.

The two goals were selected by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and his administration.

The gun violence initiatives are the first to debut after five months of work by the team. The small-business initiatives make their debut later this month.

South Memphis is one of two parts of the city where gun violence intervention pilot programs will be aimed at changing the cycle of violence and lower violent crime rates.

The South Memphis street response is modeled on a similar program in Baltimore and based on Memphis crime statistics that show many homicide victims have been shot and wounded one to four times in other incidents before they were killed, said Peggy Russell of the Innovation Delivery Team.

“It’s targeted at the few who are the problem. It’s also based on an approach that such violence will not be tolerated.”

–Doug McGowen, team director

Memphis Police will be working with experts at George Mason University through a U.S. Justice Department grant on the training. The grant is for the program. The Bloomberg grant pays for the establishment of the Innovation Delivery Team office.

The team works on funding for the efforts, which are aligned with existing divisions of city government once they are up and running.

Team director Doug McGowen said the retaliatory violence effort is based on statistics showing a small percentage of violent offenders are responsible for most of the gun violence.

“It’s targeted at the few who are the problem,” he said as he also talked of getting at cultural attitudes that can lead to more violence. “It’s also based on an approach that such violence will not be tolerated.”

Frayser is the other community to be targeted with youth intervention teams. The teams will also work with police in South Memphis. The teams of trained intervention specialists who are civilians will go to the areas of shootings as well and talk with those who might be ready to retaliate.

Peggy Russell of the Innovation Team said the Frayser area is using a different model because of the success the GRASSY – Gang Reduction Assistance for Saving Society’s Youth – program has had in Trezevant and Frayser high schools since 2009.

GRASSY, a Memphis City Schools program, is being expanded to reach outside the schools.

Russell is quick to add that the work in Frayser and South Memphis does not ignore the high level of gun violence in Hickory Hill. But Memphis Police have been targeting the high concentration of apartment complexes in Hickory Hill for years with a federal “Safeways” program that has dropped the level of violent crime by focusing on the apartment complexes.

The Innovation Team goal is to cut youth gun violence citywide by 10 percent through 2014 and drop it 20 percent in the Frayser and South Memphis areas targeted.

McGowan said the goal will be measured in reported homicides, and other violent crimes.

“We have to prove that this model will work,” he said.

The third effort is the “Mayor’s Summer Challenge,” in which Wharton will ask teenagers and young adults to take a pledge in person or online to not carry a gun, not use one to retaliate and keep friends from carrying and using guns.

The Innovation Team is also working to expand the city’s Second Chance program to create jobs for felons to include efforts to prevent juveniles in trouble from becoming felons. And the team is working on a juvenile justice coordinator’s position similar to the coordinator’s position in Shelby County government over the adult criminal justice system.

PROPERTY SALES 100 375 3,773
MORTGAGES 63 202 2,481
BUILDING PERMITS 392 651 8,607
BANKRUPTCIES 38 117 2,021