Memphis Mayor Looks To Grow 901 Block Squad

MEMPHIS.TENN (localmemphis.com - In an effort to double down on fighting crime, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced his support to double the 901 BLOC Squad staff.

Strickland announced his support last week, during his State of the City speech. The announcement was just one of the ways Strickland said they were working to crack down on crime.

According to a spokesperson from the mayor's office, Strickland plans to propose $900,000 toward 901 BLOC Squad in the upcoming budget to bring the number of group members to 22 and help break the cycle of violence. The financial commitment is subject to City Council approval.

"We want to give them hope. You can go to trade school. You can go to college. You don't have to pick up a weapon to resolve a conflict," said Delvin Lane, community violence prevention supervisor with 901 BLOC Squad.

For Lane, responding to volatile crime scenes and diffusing the situation is just part of the calling. He and the ten other members focus on building relationships in communities like Frayser, South Memphis, Orange Mound and the Mt. Moriah corridor.

Lane said they work with young people who cause trouble to deter them from bad situations, help them get jobs, listen to what's on their mind and bring peace.

 The organization, formed in 2012 through a grant, started with five members and grew to 11.

With Mayor Strickland's support to double the organization's staff, Lane said they'll be able to move from their four neighborhoods to 10. The new efforts would be in places like Westwood, Raleigh, Hickory Hill, Whitehaven, Binghampton and North Memphis.

"It's an exciting time for us because every day we're losing our young ones and now we can put more and more boots on the ground in these areas," said Lane.

However, some say more needs to be done to cut down gang violence.

"I fully support that concept as long as it is also supplemented by a wide-ranging fully engaged education system," said Pastor Kenneth Whalum of New Olivet Worship Center in Woodland Hills. He argues it's not enough to invest in 901 BLOC Squad.

In Whalum's eyes, to cut crime, there also needs to be concerted effort to increase the level of education in Memphis. He stressed in addition to investing in 901 BLOC Squad the city should reclaim its schools.

"Here's a concern for efforts like 901 BLOC Squad. It only addresses a few. It never addresses the whole. Well the taxpayers are paying taxes why shouldn't their money be used to address every kid," said Whalum.

Whalum said he is pushing for a referendum to create a municipal school system in Memphis to help reduce violence.

Thursday, Mayor Strickland said he's all for funding education, and that's the county responsibility. He went on to say investing in the 901 BLOC Squad's proven success does not take away from the focus on education.


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