County hopes new Raleigh youth center can reduce youth violence

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County leaders hope a new facility will end youth violence.

“We need to increase the number of supports available for our teens in town,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “We know that one of the biggest drivers of crime comes from youth and young adults. We know that the recidivism rate in youth and young adults is higher in others.

He says more needs to be done to put young people on the right track. That’s why Harris and her team opened a Youth and Family Resource Center for 13-17 year olds in the old Raleigh Library.

“We took this property late last summer and started to transform it into what you see today,” said Cedrick Gray, county director of education and opportunities and one of the brains behind the center.

“Almost like a lighthouse on top of a hill, isn’t it? A place to go that’s a new option where you can literally get support,” he said.

Support will be specific to the adolescent and could include behavioral health treatment, trauma counseling, or services that address underlying issues at home.

“It could be anything from rent and utility assistance to job training to mentorship programs,” he said.

Gray told us the building was ready to go. The rooms are set up and from next week they will start accepting self-referrals, which means the teenager or the teenager’s family can sign up voluntarily.

“They would make an appointment to see us, and then we would screen them and assess them and come up with a behavioral plan,” he said.

They are also working to train Memphis police officers to identify teens who would benefit from the center. They will start with agents in the Raleigh and Hickory Hill precincts.

Basically, officers will take a closer look at teens who get in trouble for these offenses.

  • Single Aggression TCA 39-13-101
  • Criminal trespass TCA 39-14-405
  • Disorderly conduct TCA 39-17-305
  • TCA Set 39-17-502
  • Minor possession of tobacco TCA 39-17-1505
  • Minor alcohol possession TCA 57-3-412
  • Simple Possession of Occasional Exchange TCA 39-17-418
  • Possession of paraphernalia TCA 39-17-425
  • Possession without legal prescription (legendary drug) TCA 53-10-105
  • Theft of Property/Shoplifting TCA 39-14-103
  • Illegal possession of controlled substances TCA 39-14-418
  • Vandalism TCA 39-14-408

“Maybe the police officer says what you’re doing is serious, but not so serious that maybe we can find a way to keep you out of trouble,” Gray said.

The teenager would then have the option of getting help at the center instead of going to juvenile court.

Data shows that last year there was a slight decrease in the number of minors charged with serious crimes such as murder, robbery, aggravated assault and carjacking.

But even so, the crime commission reports 593 serious juvenile charges, 607 in 2020 and 898 in 2019.

Research shows that diverting young people from the justice system can save taxpayers money, make courts less crowded and reduce delinquency.

But above all, it helps the community and the young people.

“The goal is like everything is to get to the root causes of crime and to make sure those who need help get the help they need,” Harris said.

You can register for self-referral at ShelbyYouthAndFamilyResourceCenter.com or by calling 901-222-4320.

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