Reducing juvenile crime by 50 percent within five years is the goal of an ambitious project undertaken in Rotary District 6800, which includes the Southaven, Hernando and Olive Branch Rotary Clubs.
Southaven Rotary's Bob Bickley has taken the lead on the project locally but its core proponent is Roy G. Ray, who hails from the tiny community of Lamar, just north of Holly Springs.
Ray was the guest speaker recently who addressed the Rotary Club of Hernando.
"We're tough on juveniles but we need to get tough and smart on crime," Ray said. "One-fourth of the people in civilian jails suffered what the experts call Adverse Childhood Experiences. Adverse Childhood Experiences are things which happen to children in the first thousand days of life. We do a good job in putting in good foundations in buildings but we are doing a lousy job in building brains in babies. If we don't learn to prevent ACES we will be going through life trying to save kids with faulty minds."
Ray said statistics from U.S. veterans agencies show that 300,000 veterans suffer from some form of post traumatic stress disorder. At least 20 veterans a day commit suicide.
Ray said the key to curbing traumatic childhood experiences is getting teachers who teach pre-kindergarten through third grade to become "trauma sensitive and trauma responsive."
"Instead of saying what's wrong with you, they should ask what has happened to you?" Ray said.
People in the corporate world are making a difference, according to Ray, who cited Memphis philanthropist Charles McVean, founder and CEO of McVean Trading & Investment.
"Charlie McVean spent $13 million to hire college students to tutor younger students in math, biology and English," Ray said.
Ray said that type of effort is a more positive, focused approach than what he suggested was nothing more than taxpayer supported boondoggles.
"We spend $80 billion a year on crime in this country," Ray said. "We've got to do something to prevent ACES from occurring by third grade."
Literacy programs, mentoring, family counseling and workforce development programs are often key to drastically reducing juvenile crime by employing parents of young children in meaningful work.
The Seven P Principles which involves improving juvenile's support network in the Raleigh-Frayser area of Memphis, targets police, parents, partners, pastors, peers and other groups with which juveniles come in regular contact.
The most important thing that any society can do is "something," as opposed to "nothing," according to Ray.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.