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Memphis joins other cities launching summer youth crime prevention programs

Across the U.S. cities are worried about the increase in youth crime. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis Chapter is working to launch programs and camps to assist.

Across the U.S. cities are reporting an increase of crimes by minors over the past year. The offenses include everything from carjacking and robbery, to gang involvement, and a well-known group of pastors in Memphis, Tennessee want to make a difference.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis Chapter launched the Youth Violence Intervention Love Initiative this summer. The program focuses on giving kids a safe environment to learn social skills, leadership, and teamwork, instead of getting into trouble. 

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"We have so much youth crime going on in our city, around the country." said President of the SCLC Memphis Chapter Rev. Walter Womack. 

For Pastor Womack, launching this program was personal.

"I’ve messed up before, and somebody gave me another chance. Somebody reached out to me ‘Hey, this is a better way, you can do it this way.’ That encouraging word from that individual inspired me. So we have to inspire these young kids." said Pastor Womack. 

The National Police association says the recent increase in teen violent crime, especially in big cities, is extremely concerning. Underage crime usually gets worse in the summer. 

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"We do see a lot of physical assaults, we see a lot of drug activity, we see a lot of higher end burglary," says National Police Association Spokesperson Sgt. Betsy Smith. "A young person who doesn’t have something to do, may drift towards illegal activity, whether it’s accidentally or on purpose, and an unoccupied youth is more vulnerable to things like street gang activity and other criminal activity." said Sgt. Smith. 

The kids at the Memphis youth crime prevention program play games outside, listen to motivational speakers, pray, and get counseling.

"I think the key is showing them love, even to those who have messed up, even those who have committed a crime. We’re not here to condemn them. We’re trying to reach them and rehabilitate them…to let them know that there is a better way, that they don’t have to resort to a life of crime." said Pastor Womack. 

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Pastor Womack now notices the kids are more excited, and they’re communicating better. He says he wants these children to look back at the camp, and know that it steered them in the right direction. 

"I would love for them to have that testimony, and then it would have a domino effect across our country." said Pastor Womack. 

This program is completely free for any kids who want to be involved, and it even provides lunch. Pastor Womack hopes to expand the program in the future, and the church’s program is also starting to go mobile by going out to places like parks, basketball courts, and more.

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