Children are growing up bombarded with crime, affecting their decisions

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In Memphis, violent crime amongst juveniles was up nearly 60 percent in 2019, in comparison to the prior year, according to the latest Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Report.

And last year, there were nearly 200 murders throughout the city.

Some people are surrounded by violence daily, which makes many desensitized to it.

FOX13 takes a look at how children grow up bombarded with a crime and how it may affect decisions.

Spend time in some parts of Memphis and you can see why many children feel like they live in a warzone.

“I hear gunshots every night," said Cornelius Simmons. “You just get used to them.”

24-year-old Simmons grew up in South Memphis. He said gangs, drug use, and shootings were a part of his everyday life.

“People close to me getting killed," he said. “Like I’m hanging around with them this day and next day they’re gone.”

At 14-years-old, Simmons lost a friend to gun violence, he recalls the number of friends he’s lost.

“I can’t even count," he said. “I either lost them to the streets or they’re in jail.”

At 15, he said, he started to sell drugs to provide for his family.

“We all struggled, just me, my mom my sister," he said. “We all struggled. Some nights we didn’t have anything to eat.”

Simmons’ will to survive landed him in juvenile detention five times.

At 19, he committed a crime that cost him two years in 201 Poplar.

That stint in jail still haunts him.

“I have nightmares, sometimes I don’t even sleep at night because of that. I don’t sleep at all,” said Simmons.

Simmons can relate to many kids in Memphis exposed to violence at an early age.

According to The National Center for Children in Poverty, between 83 and 91 percent of children in neighborhoods with high levels of violent crime experience events that leave them traumatized.

“Sometimes I think we need to look at a kid and instead of asking what’s wrong with them ask what happened to them," said Hugh D. Moore, Psychologist. “What led up to this to make them think this type of behavior is ok, the way to behave.”

Data provided by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Report shows more kids have committed violent crimes.

We’re told, last year, there was a nearly 60 percent increase from 2018-2019.

It made us ask Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich if their environment has any effect.

“The science tells us that those children are now more likely to mature, have health issues, have mental health issues and have a greater likelihood of being a victim of crime themselves or turning to criminal conduct,” she said.

Weirich said there are many efforts throughout Shelby County to keep kids out of trouble and give them the help they need, but there comes a point in time when kids must be held accountable for their actions.

“Have they come from environments that are less than ideal," said Weirich. “Have they experienced adverse childhood experiences? If they grew up in this community, chances are likely they did. But it doesn’t always explain or justify or excuse the criminal behavior, and once that crime occurs, it’s an issue for the entire community.”

When Simmons got out of jail, he knew he didn’t want to go back. He found guidance at Juvenile Intervention and Faith-Based Follow Up, or jiff. Today Simmons has turned his life around and has two jobs.

The streets aren’t for anyone, jail either," Simmons said. “If anything, I want everyone to stay on a positive productive path. Do something better with their life. Get a job go to college."

If you believe your child is suffering from trauma Shelby County offers several free and low-cost counseling services for kids and adults. Services include trauma & group counseling, as well as non-profits that serve at-risk children.