After Chief Magistrate Dan Michael discussed the importance of good judges at Juvenile Court and how it works, he went on to talk about gangs at our Midtown Republican Club monthly meeting.
“Poverty plus lack of family plus drugs equals gangs,” Michael said. “It’s a volatile mix. We have MS 13 (a violent Mexican gang), Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples. Now we have a brand new thing unique to Memphis. I was at a Chicago conference and told them about it. They were all stunned. Now we have hybrid gangs.” Michael went on to describe how this works.
“You can have a Crip, a Blood and a Gangster Disciple in the same car. They realized you can get a guy from another area unknown there so he can do the job.” The gang member won’t be recognized so he is able to go unnoticed, Michael explained. “It’s a frightening turn of events.”
Memphis gangs came out of the housing projects, according to Michael. “They are all buddies.” The rise of the gangs really began in the 1980s, fueled by crack cocaine. “It decimated families. You often have a mom addicted to drugs, no father present and kids who grew up surrounded by criminals. The kids raise themselves. What the gangs provide is loyalty, confidence and the feeling of doing public service. You have to be initiated and you have to memorize the literature. Their recruitment is sophisticated. They know how to do it.”
Michael recounts a former Gangster Disciple who is now involved with a program Police Director Toney Armstrong started with ministers. This ex gang member was present at a church and asked the minister “What time do your churches close?” What is more relevant for juveniles is “what time do the streets close?” he pointed out. Of course, they never do, which means that youths are susceptible when gang members, who usually get up around 5 and 6 p.m., get out and prey upon those wandering the streets.
It’s so bad out there that Michael asked if we knew what the primary fear is among 6 year olds in Memphis? “It’s getting shot.” Michael sadly noted that “40% of the children we detain are in detention because their parents won’t get them. They don’t even show up in court.”
Alarming, too, is the growth of Hispanic gangs in Memphis. They are often at odds with the black gangs. Judges worry that this explosive situation will someday result in a “carnage no one is prepared for.”
Next: The DOJ sues Memphis’ Juvenile Court