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Summit to take family-centered focus about violent crime in North Memphis

With a goal of finding a family-centric approach to reducing violent crime in North Memphis, community stakeholders, including church groups and law enforcement, are taking part in the third Better Community Summit on Saturday (June 4). 

At this point in time, we’re a more violent society than we’ve been in the past. I think it’s the result of several things,” Joseph C. Murphy, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, who is leading the summit.

From gang violence, robberies, domestic abuse and neighborhood disputes, the term “violent crime” casts a wide net rooted in multiple causes, including poverty, domestic violence, or just bad choices. 

The summit seeks to give tools to residents so they can recognize or resolve issues before they escalate. 

The Better Community Summit runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Neighborhood Christian Center at 785 Jackson Ave. Attendance is free. There will be two upcoming summits for the Whitehaven/Westwood and Hickory Hill/East Memphis areas, to be announced later.

“The whole violent crime issue is very complex, in terms of how do you reduce it? Again, you can’t eliminate it, but if we’re going to reduce it, we need everybody involved in it,” said Murphy.

Often, behaviors are learned in the home.

“Domestic violence is a major factor. Young men see in household violence by one husband against wife, or vice versa. That’s how they learn to cope with that. We want to give people information about that, how to get out of a violent situation if you’re in one,” said Murphy.

Experts also will address how to resolve disputes between neighbors or teenagers, for example.

In addition to learning strategies and tools to resolve conflicts, attendees can ask about disputes they faced and how they can be or could have been best resolved.

“It’s more about how to de-escalate conflicts and get a more positive outcome,” said Murphy.

Many violent crimes are committed by youth offenders. These often range from disputes with other teens to carjackings. Frequently, it is the same offender over and over, until law enforcement finally catches up with them.

“If you look at the stats in terms of violent crime, about 20 percent of the offenders are responsible for about 80 percent of the violent crime.

“For example, in Memphis we see groups of people that commit multiple carjackings, they commit multiple robberies. Obviously, I’ve got to deal with that more violent 20 percent as a prosecutor. If you can take steps that impact the lives of that 80 percent, that’s where the community is essential,” Murphy said.

In addition to repeat offenders, many violent crimes are committed by gang members. 

To help parents recognize the signs that their child may be involved in a gang, a discussion on Gangtalk also will be held. This will help pick up on possible language, clothing, or other signals that their child has joined a gang.

Programs to promote community and individual engagement also are essential. They can include youth organizations like the Boy Scouts to mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“What’s kind of interesting about the problem is, not exclusively, it involves a high number of young males. I think mentoring can have an impact,” said Murphy, adding that once teens enter the criminal justice system the outcomes typically are negative. 

“They get into the system. Once they’re in the system and they progress along, you get to a point where it’s much more difficult to reverse the trend.” 

The negative trends also can continue outside of the legal system. Along with a criminal record, many lack education and basic job skills. Drug addiction and alcoholism also are common.

“I really appreciate the Christian Center and the others who sponsored this thing. I think it’s a good way to deal with things. I think it raises people’s awareness of what’s going on and it gives them tools to cope with it,” said Murphy.

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