$1.7 million in taxpayer bucks supposed to fix youth violence in Memphis


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — This time next year, there’s a chance you’ll think of Memphis as a safe, happy, crime-free place. For that, you can thank the federal government.

The federal departments of education and justice have announced they are sending a combined $1.7 million in taxpayer money to combat youth violence in the city.

Memphis officials will use this money to, among other things, teach at-risk teenagers about violence prevention strategies and provide social and emotional support.

As reported, Tennessee is the most violent state in the nation — with the problem most heavily concentrated in Memphis, which has the nation’s fifth-worst crime rate, possibly due to poverty.

So what kinds of accountability measures are in place to make sure this taxpayer money is invested wisely, with real results?

If, heaven forbid, youth violence is still a problem in Memphis this time next year, will federal officials consider these programs an outright failure and a waste of taxpayer money?

YOUTH VIOLENCE: It’s an epidemic washing across Memphis, Tenn.

Staff members for U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who gleefully announced the grants in two media releases, did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

Is this an extension of the government nanny-state, seeing as how most people consider it a parents’ job to instill these values in their children?

Most important, can government programs do this job as effectively as a private civic organization?

Officials with the departments of justice and education also did not return requests for comment Thursday.

Cohen, in his news releases, says he’s sold on the idea the money will make a difference.

“This funding will be a valuable asset as we work to address the underlying causes of youth violence and prevent bad behavior before it becomes a bigger problem,” Cohen said.

Information on the percentage of people in Memphis who live on government assistance wasn’t immediately available, but Memphis is widely regarded as one of the poorest cities in the nation.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported in 2007 that one in five city residents live below the poverty line. Poverty in Memphis, the newspaper went on, was the highest of 51 metropolitan areas in the United States with populations of at least 1 million people.

But the Heritage Foundation says that poverty is not necessarily a root cause of crime.

Steve Cohen

“The absence of the father is the single most important cause of poverty,” Heritage reported.

The rate of juvenile crime is closely linked to the percentage of children raised in single-parent families, Heritage added.

“Along with the increased probability of family poverty and heightened risk of delinquency, a father’s absence is associated with a host of other social problems. The three most prominent effects are lower intellectual development, higher levels of illegitimate parenting in the teenage years and higher levels of welfare dependency,” according to Heritage.

The “War on Poverty,” enacted in 1965, has cost taxpayers at least $5 trillion, Heritage reported.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

Follow Tennessee Watchdog and receive regular updates through Facebook and Twitter

Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!