Leader of Memphis’ new intervention program believes the resources will save lives

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We are hearing from the leader of Memphis’s new Group Violence Intervention Program.

In her first TV interview about the job, she talked to FOX13 about her plans to curb gun violence.

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Joy Touliatos, who will take on the role of director for the GVIP program, said it’s all about offering resources to those who need it, resources she believes will save lives.

“Our plan is to focus on those who are at highest risk, focus on them, intervene with them, offer support, offer some resources, wrap-around services,” said Touliatos.

Starting July 1, Touliatos will lead the Group Violence Intervention Program, or GVIP, in an effort to reduce gun violence in the Bluff City.

Memphis Police said the offenders committing the most violent crimes are teens and sometimes even younger.

“Among the youth, I mean that’s something I saw all the time at juvenile court. They just need somebody there.  They need to know that somebody is there and willing to help them and give them another chance,” she said.

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The GVIP program is a partnership between the city and several other organizations with one goal in mind:  showing our young people a better path than violence.

“They need to know we care about them; we want them to be safe, we want them to stay out of prison and we want them to stay alive.”

The Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Corrections are a few of the agencies teaming up with other organizations.  Even a former gang member is partnering with these groups.

“If they want to get out of the life, they’re in, we’re there to support them, but they want to have to take that offer, and that’s what we hope that they will do.”

Last week, Memphis Councilman Jeff Warren said he expects this program to reduce the murder rate by 10 percent.

Touliatos said this approach will help so many people in the community struggling to feel safe.  I shared two separate examples of when my photographers and I were threatened with weapons this year.

“One time where someone threatened to kill us, he had his gun but thankfully community activist Stevie Moore showed up in his stop the killing van. Then the second incident was last week when someone pulled a weapon on my photographer and me.  So we’re not in gangs. What do you say to people who want to feel safe? how do you make them feel safe?” Siobhan Riley asked.

“What we’re trying to do is hire more intervention workers and more outreach workers so we have more people out in the streets that see these things and can intervene as Mr. Moore did for you,” said Touliatos.


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