Gang Awarenesss Conference draws concerned citizens - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Gang Awarenesss Conference draws concerned citizens

Memphis' first-ever Gang Awareness Conference at East High School today drew concerned citizens, including clergy, educators, law enforcement, students, and parents, from all areas of the city.

Ronald Pope, the new Gang Intervention and Prevention Coordinator for Memphis City Schools, said the schools are partnering with police to implement a gang abatement model that has helped other cities drastically reduce youth violence.

"We want them to be aware of what colors are, what symbols are, what the symptoms are so they can prevent this from happening inside their own home," said Pope. "Have situations where children know who to call, they know where to call, they know where to go. So, if gang members are approaching them, they have resources to reach out to."

One substitute teacher described the current classroom environment as uncontrollable.

"They don't have any respect for authorities and cursing out the instructors. It's just, it's terrible," said Claudia Mims.

Today's event is only the first step in the crackdown on gang violence in Memphis schools. Organizers said they'll take what they've learned and put it into a strategic plan to try to turn the community around. They said ignoring gang violence is only going to make it worse.

"We've got to put responsible adults to minister, mentor and monitor these children and really build a movement that says we're really going to focus on the neediest children in the poorest neighborhoods," said Rev. Eugene Rivers, III, a youth advocate.

12-year-old student Darius Hill said the conference was helpful. 

"I learned that I shouldn't get into gangs because bad things can happen to you and your family and the people that love you and support you," said Hill. "Just be yourself and express yourself and don't give in to temptation."

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