Volunteer chaplains work to curb deadly youth violence

Pastor Michael D. Joyner (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Five volunteer chaplains will focus on youth violence and intervention as they continue their work with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The chaplains are all local pastors who do the work free of charge.

Pastor Michael D. Joyner leads the Faith Missionary Baptist Church and was one of the first chaplains in Nashville when the volunteer program in 2005.

Joyner said in 2010, as a result of increasing youth violence, five volunteer chaplains formed the MNPD Youth Intervention Chaplain Program.

“We first get out there on scene to respond to immediate needs,” Pastor Joyner said. “We try to talk to the victim, if possible, and the suspect if possible. We want to try to figure out what lead up to the incident.”

The chaplains also work to keep teens, friends, surviving family members and others from retaliating after a crime.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

“By stopping the retaliation is how you go from nine teens killed in 2015 to two teens killed in 2016,” Pastor Joyner said. “One death is one too many.”

The pastors also do outreach in communities with high instances of youth violence and poverty.

“We get out in the community with the kids and do things like play basketball,” he said. “We repainted the basketball court at the Cayce Homes in East Nashville and brought the kids pizza.”

He continued, “When the kids see us taking an interest in them it helps them connect with us.”

While homicides in Nashville increased from 79 in 2015 to 84 in 2016, the drop in youth homicides from nine to two is a dramatic decrease.

Metro officials credit programs like the MNPD Youth Intervention Chaplain Program and the Mayor’s Youth Violence Summits with addressing the root causes of youth violence.

Pastor Joyner said the chaplains can sometimes get information from people close to a crime that police officers would otherwise have trouble getting.

“Police can be intimidating to some people,” he explained. “We are community people and we are pastors so they trust you, at least you hope they do anyway, and they know you want what is in their best interest.”

Metro police also has a Victim Intervention Program available.

The program offers crisis intervention, counseling, as well as advocacy with the police and in the courts.