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East Memphis Crime: WAY Too Close to Home

September 9, 2014

monteagle clouds and bluff view


For the past 12 days, Eddie and I have been enjoying the quiet beauty and many blessings of our Monteagle home-away-from-Memphis mountain abode. Alas, our wooded paradise will soon be on the market and we won’t have a place to recharge and decompress from the intensity of Memphis living.

Friends always ask how we like living in Memphis. This trip, Eddie joked – presciently, as it turned out – about how good it was to get away from living in the War Zone.  Then came the Poplar Plaza Kroger teen mob attack, the shooting at Target on Colonial, and the  murder of a sleeping 14 year old (drive by or planned, no one is yet saying) three blocks from our house in the Balmoral area.

We are no longer laughing. Neither is anyone else  who lives in East Memphis.

Crime in Memphis is no joke, and violence perpetrated by or against youth is particularly devastating to our community. In an interview for ABC News just a year ago,  then-17 year old Briana Winters said, “Instead of preparing for the ACT or filling out college applications or even going to prom or graduation, youth in my city are dying because of senseless violence or being put in jail for pulling the trigger.”

Most youth crime is gang-related, and increasing in Tennessee. Local law enforcement agencies reported in 2009 that 54% of violent crime offenders were aged 24 or younger. Memphis’ Operation Safe Community (OSC) warns that “Children as young as nine years old have become involved in gangs and criminal activity, in response to strong peer pressure and threats, in search of a sense of community or family where otherwise there is none, or simply to earn money that can pay for a roof over their heads and clothes on their back.”

Tomorrow afternoon, September 9th, representatives of city and county law enforcement agencies,  Shelby Co. Schools, the U.S. Department of Justice, and local parents and youth will convene at the SCS Board of Education Auditorium for another in a series of community forums on youth crime.  Timely, no?

handcuffed youth against wall

According to a flyer I received through linchub today, Youth Summit II: Who Is Really Committed? is part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and OSC. The former is a joint project of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, launched in 2010. The latter is a non-profit organization initially funded by the Plough Foundation and Guardsmark, Inc.  Newly elected Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael will open the three-hour forum at 1:30 p.m.. He will be followed by Shelby Co. Mayor Mark Luttrell and  a Dept. of Justice representative who will discuss “National Best Practices in  Youth Violence Prevention.” Two panel discussions round out the agenda. A law enforcement panel includes the local heavyweights – General Amy Weirich, MPD’s Toney Armstrong, and Sheriff Bill Oldham. The second panel will feature engaged parents and youth, including current or participants in local initiatives  JIFF (Juvenile Intervention  and Faith-based Follow-up), G.R.A.S.S.Y. (Gang Reduction Assistance for Saving Society’s Youth), and Memphis Ambassadors Program.

Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby Co. District Attorney Amy Weirich  at a  Nashville safety conference in 2012. Photo credit: Commercial Appeal

Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby Co. District Attorney Amy Weirich at a Nashville safety conference in 2012. Photo credit: Commercial Appeal

Not all local crime is committed by youth, but a special focus on reducing and preventing youth crime can have an immense, beneficial impact on the quality of life for everyone in Memphis – especially our precious children.

Eddie and I regret that we won’t arrive back in Memphis in time to attend the summit tomorrow. We hope that some of you will do whatever it takes to be there. You are asked to R.S.V.P. as soon as possible to Tamara Sawyer at  Memphis Shelby Crime Commission ( or  901-507-4191). You may also contact Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Project Coordinator Brona E. Pinnolis, JD at 901.507.4192.

Back in River City will follow up on this and other crime prevention efforts in Memphis.

Drinking_teenagers_1107904cIn case you’re wondering, Monteagle police reports typically feature incidents no more heinous than the discovery of infected bats, courageous retrieval of snakes from front porches, and the occasional underaged Sewanee student caught drinking off campus. (I’m not joking.) Recently a hunter accidentally, tragically shot and killed his best friend.

We are going to miss Monteagle.

Our neighborhood,  last night.

Our neighborhood in Memphis, last night. Photo credit: WMC Action News 5.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    September 9, 2014 3:02 am

    Eve, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said even animals have souls because they can make choices. They chose to fight or not fight, eat or not eat. But their choices are made based on animal instincts. As humans, we have the capacity to know God and our choices are based on his moral absolutes.Our problem in Memphis is that we have a society raised by wolves. We have children raised with with no moral values in an absence of God. Why are we surprised when their choices are based on animal instincts? Nancy Addcox

    • September 9, 2014 3:29 am

      I agree, Nancy, it is a hard truth that our American culture is largely post- Judeo-Christian. Increasingly, we resemble not so much a secular as a pagan society, replete with violence, immorality and degradation. Eddie and I believe that, in addition to the death spiral of traditional American Judeo-Christian values, wrong choices in public policy over the past 50 years are responsible for creating huge communities of generational poverty, hopelessness, and despair. The imposition of a sense of entitlement/inability to succeed independently not only destroys self esteem, personal responsibility, and initiative; but creates a permanent underclass. Whether intended or not, policies that sustain and increase welfare dependency are inhumane – treating people as inhuman. So yes, if you treat someone as less than human, those “animal instincts” you speak of will come to the surface. Thanks for your heart-felt comment.

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