‘We need big ideas’ to tackle downtown crime, says Memphis councilman

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city center is the heart of the city. It’s where tourists flock, our sports teams play, Broadway shows take to the stage, conventions are held and, unfortunately, criminals prowl.

A couple visiting Memphis for a concert in December were riding a scooter back to their downtown hotel when they told police a car pulled up and five men with guns got out.

They demanded their belongings as they allegedly struck the male victim repeatedly with the butt of the gun while pointing another gun at his girlfriend.

A few days later, Jennifer Woodall says her 2016 Dodge Charger was stolen in downtown Memphis.

“My friend had my car and he was going to his cousin’s party at an Airbnb on South Main Street,” she said.

She shared this photo with us and posted it on social media. She says she received advice she may have seen in Frayser and on Getwell. She has not yet recovered her only means of transport.

“If I don’t have a way to get around, it’s not school, or work, or anything. It means my bills aren’t being paid or whatever,” Woodall said.

Vehicle theft, car burglary and vandalism make up the majority of crimes reported downtown in recent months. You can see it on the crime tracking map below.

City crime tracker map of 38103 for the last three months

From late October to mid-December, multiple reports detailed similar stories. The victims say they were downtown. Some had left a year-end party or a bar. They were walking to their hotel or car when they say a vehicle pulled up and several people in masks got out.

In each story, they are armed with a gun and demand belongings before fleeing.

“We absolutely have to make people feel safe when they come here,” Councilor Chase Carlisle said. said at a meeting in December.

He spoke about the crime happening downtown and his frustration remains.

“Crime is all over the city, but the way we pay the bills for the city of Memphis is through property taxes and sales taxes. A big driver of that is the people who come to the center -city for tourism,” he said.

Carlisle, whose family has invested millions in One Beale downtown, says he fears the crime will discourage other investors.

Last year, city ​​data shows just over 4,600 crimes have been reported in the downtown postcode of 38103. This number is the highest in years.

Most were property crimes, but some violent crimes like aggravated assault are also on the rise.

“As we continue to see violent crime and crime increase in certain areas, it makes investing much more difficult. I’m not going to say it’s going away, but it makes it more expensive and ultimately people can choose other places to put their money than Memphis,” Carlisle said.

Paul Young, who heads the Downtown Memphis Commission, said, “His concern is our concern.”

“Crime has an impact. Our goal is to demonstrate that downtown is still strong. We saw the interest in downtown. We see business owners wanting to put their locations in our area,” he assured us.

Young says they are addressing security issues. They work with the police, test new cameras with artificial intelligence and add a night shift to the Blue Suede Brigade.

“We think it will be a big boost to have the presence. They will be doing roving security checks in parts of downtown,” he said.

Young says they are addressing security issues.

Mayor Jim Strickland says he is also lobbying the courts to fix the issues.

“The challenge we have is that in 2022, Memphis police have arrested 2,000 people for burglary or theft from vehicles, and they are almost immediately released from jail,” he said.

Another concern you brought to WREG’s attention was lighting. This weekend, our teams spotted several lampposts in the city center, such as on Front Street, where police reported that a vehicle had been stolen. It is not known if the light was off when it happened.

We saw lights go out along South Main and on Beale. MLGW says it has received reports of these lights and they should be repaired within 30 days.

MLGW also said in late January that crews would start replacing city ​​streetlights with LED versions, and these will be brighter. They will begin replacing downtown streetlights in April.

“Incremental changes will not get us there. We need big ideas,” Carlisle said.

He says the city needs to think long term. One of his ideas is to increase police patrols.

MPD is understaffed, so in the next budget it plans to ask for a 5% increase for officers to help recruit and retain.

“It’s not a police or the answer to all, but if we don’t have police we won’t have the manpower for the coverage we need to be present or visible,” he said. he declared.

Memphis police responded to Carlisle in an email saying they would ‘try to provide more manpower and patrols’ downtown and had overtime approved for details in parking lots .

Last weekend, four people wearing ski masks allegedly attempted to steal a vehicle on Second. It escalated into a shootout and two people were injured.

A massive crime scene sat there for hours in plain sight.

Victims like Woodall will tell you about these scenes, these actions, they all have an impact.

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