MEMPHSI, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Police and area ministers took a break from business as usual Thursday to get together and talk about ways to take back their neighborhoods.
Inside a cramped portable building, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, and District Attorney General Bill Gibbons all squeezed in to meet with a group of local pastors.
"It gives them the opportunity to talk to us and it gives us an opportunity to talk to them and see what we can do together to make our community bette," Godwin said.
The meetings are scheduled four times a year, and the subject is always the same: community improvement.
This time, Gibbons asked for help fighting teen pregnancy. Statistics indicate that 25 percent of all teen pregnancies in the state of Tennessee happen in Shelby County.
Gibbons said children of teen mothers, especially boys, are more likely to wind up in the criminal justice system.
"We need the faith community to step up with us and work with us to discourage teen pregnancy. We're not advocating any particular approach," Gibbons said.
Church leaders said they are willing to listen and to offer whatever influence they can with congregations and communities that might respect pastors more than police.
"Walk with the people that have issues. This is no longer a Sunday morning service where you preach and go home. This is a lifestyle change in our community," James Williams of Hope Fellowship Baptist Church said.
Gibbons said local pastors have more power with state legislators, too. He is asking them to petition lawmakers for tougher punishment for violent criminals.