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Memphis mayor asks gangs for ceasefire amid ‘epidemic of car break-ins’ that gang members say they commit out of boredom

The mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, met with local gang leaders and asked them to agree to a seven-day ceasefire, as crime has seemingly spiraled out of control in the city.

The mayor said that he had talks, not “negotiations,” with Memphis gang leaders, with community representatives adding that the number of gangs in the city has also become a problem in itself.

“We’ve progressively seen new gangs formalize,” said community leader K. Durell Cowan, founder of Heal 901, a Memphis nonprofit. “This is not the traditional area where you have four of five gangs … we have hybrid gangs.”

Memphis had a record 398 homicides in 2023, which is more than double what the city had five years prior. CNN reported that there had already been more than 600 major violent crimes in the first two months of 2024, with at least 40 homicides.

Memphis has also reached a 17-year high in crime, the Justice Department announced.

“Our city has had a big issue around crime over the last couple of years. … We need to take it to the streets, we need to talk to the people that are actually engaged in the activity,” Mayor Paul Young said about his talks with the gang leaders.

“What came out of the conversation is that they want to be a part of it. Since I had that dialogue … there have been others that have reached out to me.”

Youth crime was a particular focus for the mayor as he spoke to community leaders, with those between the ages of 16 and 24 highlighted as a group with more than 45,000 individuals either not working or not in school. Nearly 50% of those in the same age group live in poverty, according to statistics from a nonprofit called the Collective Blueprint.

The same nonprofit said that by the time those young adults turn 28, only 1% would be on the path toward earning a living wage.

However, the rate of arrests for violent crimes decreases by 45% for youth who have jobs or internships, according to Action News 5.

CNN’s Victor Blackwell said that through speaking to various gang members in his career, he’s learned they do not wish to become criminals.

“They’re not aspiring to criminal activity, what they want is to belong,” he told the mayor.

While the mayor described a lot of the gang leaders’ requests as “heartfelt,” he insisted it was just a conversation and not a negotiation.

The gang members told the mayor a recent “epidemic of car break-ins” was simply due to their younger gang members being bored and having nothing to do.

Including the break-ins, more than 3,500 property crimes were reported in January 2024 alone, according to police statistics.

“The things that our community needs aren’t new, it’s just something we have to lean into,” the mayor said regarding the need for mentorship.

Young admitted, however, that there were some criminals who need to be taken “through the criminal justice system,” but there are many others who he believes can be saved.

-The Blaze


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