A closer look at juvenile criminal supervision in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Murders, carjackings, aggravated robberies - these are just some of the violent crimes we’re seeing committed by children in Shelby County.

In a Tuesday morning committee meeting, Shelby County Crime Commission president Bill Gibbons told city council leaders that there’s a problem with supervision.

“If current trends continue, we will have at the end of the year about 500 juveniles charged with serious violent crimes,” he told the council.

“When it comes to those very serious violent juvenile offenders, I think we need to take an extra step. First of all, most of them are going to be supervised in the community because the state doesn’t have adequate space for these violent juveniles.”

He said that leads to us – the community – having to do the supervising in some cases.

“If we don’t have that in place, the result is pretty predictable – they’re going to become repeat offenders,” he said.

Gibbons said the county has a successful program through juvenile courts called the auxiliary probation service.

The program takes in volunteers from the community to do some of supervising juvenile criminals.

The requirements are for the volunteer to be 21 and older, have good morals and common sense, pass both a criminal and sex offender background check and the completion of classroom training.

Archie Moss Jr., the founder of The Gentlemen’s League and a Memphis educator, said he feels disheartened by the rising juvenile crime rates in the city.

But he said the real change won’t happen until leaders take a step back and look at the system in place.

“We gotta think of policies, code of conduct, discipline systems, we gotta think of all these things that are impacting Black males where they’re not receiving the necessary support they need,” he said.

Moss Jr. said it starts at home and in the classroom.