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How a crime investigator is making sure kids understand the reality of violence

“Most days, parents expect to be buried by their kids and now we have more kids being buried by their parents,” said PD Ware, PD Ware Inspires founder.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — According to the Shelby County Juvenile Court’s Annual Report, the number of juveniles admitted to detention due to complaints went down form 3,952 in 2012 to 689 in 2021. Meanwhile, homicides committed by juveniles have risen in 2021 - six times more than in 2012.

Young people, unfortunately, see death in movies, video games, and sometimes on social media. Those things have made the matter of death trivial, often glamorizing the very serious circumstances surrounding something so tragic.

With those numbers going up, the question is how to keep them down. ABC24 met a death investigator who shows youth what death looks like and its realities.

“Most days, parents expect to be buried by their kids, and now we have more kids being buried by their parents,” said PD Ware, PD Ware Inspires founder.

That is a problem.

Ware is a death investigator. She wrote a book for youth and holds monthly sessions for those who have gone through the justice system or are currently in it. 

She teaches them about the realities of death. 

“In 2018, gun violence became the leading cause of death for our kids ages 1-19. It hasn’t slowed down yet. That’s a major problem,” said Ware.

The numbers are worse for young men, particularly Black men.  

“For younger men, they’re six times more likely to die due to gun violence than young women. For our African American young men, they’re 18 times more likely to die from gun violence than our Caucasian young men," she said.

Ware gives it to youth straight. 

“I don’t sugar coat anything for them. I tell them the exact process once death occurs. Death has its own smell to it. You can see stuff on TV, but when you’re up close and personal, when you’ve had to touch death, that’s a whole different ball game,” said Ware.

She shows tools and equipment to drive home the reality. 

“The one thing that nobody wants to see is a child or a teenager in one of these, in a body bag... Death seems so commonplace now, and that’s a problem. That’s where the heartbreak is.”

Ware also uses a special coded shirt that allows youth to hear their heartbeat and drive home the value of life. “That heart is the only muscle in the body that never stops working from the time that you’re born to the day you leave this earth. For me, the heartbeat is such a prominent thing when we’re talking about life,” said Ware. “Life means promise, hope, and inspiration.”

Ware currently meets with youth once a month. She’s planning to start a “Better Choices, Better Chances,” school tour.

Credit: Shelby County Juvenile Court
Credit: Shelby County Juvenile Court

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