Memphis City Hall, Mayor Paul Young

Memphis Mayor Paul Young Pushes Ceasefire During Meeting With Top Gang Leaders 

A brave move from a brave leader.....

Memphis Mayor Paul Young continues to focus on public safety by meeting with top gang leaders to stop the violence. 

Young, elected in January 2024, met with some of the highest-ranking gang leaders in Memphis and crafted a plan to cease fire for seven days. To Young, that wasn’t asking for much, but it came with a cost.

“My ask for them in that conversation was, ‘Can we get a seven-day ceasefire? Just seven days where there’s no shooting, no killing?'” the mayor asked.

“And they said, ‘Yeah, we would be willing to do that,’ and they gave me a couple of caveats.”

Young provided the context of the meeting during a panel discussion on Mar. 4 at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis regarding youth workforce development. Young said all the leaders came to an agreement, but in return, they are seeking well-paying jobs and the training needed to secure them. 

Lastly, they requested assurances that their enemies also agreed to the ceasefire. 

Memphis has experienced record-breaking numbers in violence. Almost 400 people were reported homicide victims in 2023 – a significant jump from 190 reported in 2019. Overall crime has been down since the start of 2024, however, with close to 600 violent crimes so far, not including homicides; the Justice Department is worried the city is reaching a 17-year high crime rate. 

One of the final things the gang leaders mentioned was their “young boys” needing money in their pockets. Young has, hopefully, found a peaceful way to get them what they need. Those in attendance for the discussion celebrated a major donation from JPMorgan Chase to The Collective Blueprint, a nonprofit organization helping unemployed youth find a successful career path. 

Collective Blueprint received $275,500 to fund a two-year grant to develop the Opportunity Youth Advanced Green Manufacturing Workforce Pathway Program. A Chicago study found that young adults who received a job or participated in an internship had a 45% drop in violent crime arrests.

Similar to the gang leaders, Young said many of the youth come from poverty with limited resources. “They said, ‘We don’t have programs at our community centers,'” he told the crowd. “‘We don’t have things to do, so we go out and we steal cars, and we ride around with our friends.'”

With more than 45,000 young adults between 16 and 24 out of school or work in the Greater Memphis area, the program will curate opportunities to help youth stay out of trouble

This won’t be the last meeting of its kind with the gang leaders, Young said, and he hopes that more city leaders follow suit. Struck by their humility, Young said the meeting helped open his eyes to how “normal, or regular” the gang members were. Many admitted that they don’t want to be living that type of lifestyle, but have no choice.

“What they said to me was that they’ve been conditioned to this lifestyle,” Young said. “If we introduce some opportunities, we may be able to turn the tide.” 

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