Fifty mentors in 10 focus regions encourage more positive activities for teens during the inactive summer months.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On a day when two teenagers appeared in Shelby County Juvenile Court on carjacking charges, those from the Memphis youth response group ‘901 Bloc Squad’ conceded the challenges but welcomed the opportunities in a year when gun charges and violence with Memphis teens are at levels never seen before.
Their mission is to prevent and accompany vulnerable adolescents towards a different path, far from the juvenile justice system.
“It’s sickening, but it gives me a sense of urgency that our team really needs to get out there,” said Delvin Lane of the 901 Bloc Squad.
Lane leads this team, confronting teenagers accused of violent crimes like never before.
“I think the red light is flashing, I think kids are trying to live what they see in video games,” Lane added.
Members of the “901 Bloc Squad” focus on 10 sensitive areas. Memphis police say these neighborhoods play a major role in an 85% increase in minors arrested on firearms charges from last June to June.
“We take it up a notch, we’re in communities, we knock on doors, we hang out, we go to events with them, just to hang out with them because the more time you spend with them, the less likely to catch a case trying to do something crazy on the street,” Lane said.
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Members of the “901 Bloc Squad” said their efforts are particularly intense during the summer months when teenagers are out of school.
“We know downtime is the devil’s workshop and so we try to fill that downtime with productive things like work, education, football, baseball, whatever it is, the track,” he said. Lane said.
He added that preventing youth violence also begins at home with parents.
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“Build a relationship with your child, talk to him, get to know him, know who he hangs out with, know what he’s thinking, check his stuff, be nosy,” Lane said.
Thanks to more money from the city of Memphis, the ‘901 Bloc Squad’ has quadrupled its mentors since last summer. Lane said the next goal is to transition more of these mentors from part-time to full-time.