MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton met with the leaders of the city's gangs, and asked them for help. Mayor Wharton is starting a program to get guns out of the hands of young people.
Between 2008 and 2011, 400 people under the age of 24 were shot and killed in Memphis. The mayor says unless something is done, it will get a lot worse.
Kids with guns, gangstas with attitudes, addicts with drugs on their minds and jittery trigger fingers, put them all together and they spell Memphis, and Memphis can kill you.
Mayor Wharton says he's tired of it, and he's asking for help from everybody - even gang leaders.
What the mayor did a few weeks ago would have been unheard of once. For decades most Memphis big-wigs spent time denying there were gangs or gang violence. Those days are gone.
"A couple of weeks ago, I sat down face to face in a room with leaders of the gangs, asking them for their perspective. What is it going to take to get the guns out of the hands of these young folks?"
Wharton wants ideas, and he doesn't care where they originate.
"What we've done in the past obviously isn't working as well as we would desire."
Memphis police are already cracking down on violent young folks. The Community Policing Program is supposed to get the cops to take back streets in neighborhoods with gang problems, and then using churches and other groups, talking with parents and other agencies to try and straighten kids out.
Now the Wharton summer challenge is to reduce gun violence by ten percent, 20 percent in some neighborhoods, and get young folks to avoid guns at all cost.
"We're coming after the guns. We're not going to let up until we see the numbers dropping in terms of the numbers of homicides that are occurring."
The mayor said the meeting with gang leaders was important, both for him, and he hopes for them.
He told the group a story about when he was a young lawyer, representing a gang leader years ago. One of the people listening to the mayor raised his hand and said, 'the guy you're talking about is my father.'
It was the reality of Memphis slapping the mayor right in the face.