Emotions sparked at forum on juvenile crime in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Passion and emotion collided at a community talk on juvenile crime that has been talked about for days, drawing hundreds to Orange Mound where a panel of experts was peppered with questions.

The frustration was clear at the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission community forum on juvenile crime.

Hundreds packed into the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church to gather and listen to panelists, hoping an exchange of ideas helps stem the tide of violence committed by kids and teens in Shelby County.

“The juvenile, repeat offender piece is something we just started looking at the numbers,” said Memphis police Chief CJ Davis.

Set to be moderated by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, notably missing after what was passed on as a death in his family, panelists included those representing Youth Villages, the state’s Department of Children’s Services, and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon.

“Through the pandemic a lot of our kids became disconnected,” Sugarmon said.

A question on blended sentencing,’ a concept that allows kids to be kept under court supervision through age 25.

Currently, a kid is released from court-mandated intervention programs or incarceration at 19, Sugarmon said.

“It would certainly be another tool in our arsenal,” said Sugarmon.

He said intervening with kids before they reach high school “are the children we can see the most effect.”

In all, more than two hours were spent discussing ideas but solutions to a complicated issue remained to be seen.

“It takes a long time to change someone’s mindset when they’ve grown up in and around violence,” said Susan Deason, executive director of Memphis Allie’s Initiative.