When the owner of Knight Arnold Food and Fuel gas station and convenience store was allowed to reopen his business last month, homeowners and community groups in the Fox Meadows area were furious.
The store opened a week after General Sessions Environmental Court shut it as a public nuisance.
The Fox Meadows community remained angry enough this month that when City Council member Wanda Halbert called a town hall meeting on crime problems in the area that the elected officials, police officers and prosecutors far outnumbered those in the community at the Nov. 18 meeting at Greater Harvest Church, on Winchester Road at South Perkins Road.
“They are upset because they feel like they’ve been hearing promises after promises after promises.”
City Council member
Patricia Rogers, who came to criticize Halbert and hand out flyers to that effect, was the only person in the audience of 25 who wasn’t there to respond to comments and questions from the public.
“They are upset because they feel like they’ve been hearing promises after promises after promises,” Halbert told those in the church pews. “They are so angry they didn’t want to come.”
And Halbert said the frustration is because the neighborhood groups have been reporting drug sales and violent gang-related activity for a long time, not just at the store but in surrounding apartment complexes as well as vacant property.
“There seemed to be a whole lot that was reported to police,” Halbert said as she added that she sympathized to some degree because police and prosecutors can’t always talk about all they might be doing in an area with a crime problem.
But she also said the perception in the area is that crime has accelerated even though police brass from the Mount Moriah station say it is leveling off with some long-term hot spots remaining problems.
On Friday, Nov. 22, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. announced that code enforcement officers had just completed a sweep of the nearby Wooddale Condominiums at 4876 Winchester Road and that the city was preparing to demolish two apartment complexes in the area.
But the announcement might fuel frustration in the area.
In February 2010, Wooddale Condominiums were declared a nuisance under state law, the first against owners of condos in Shelby County.
“We’re simply not going to board them up and walk off,” Wharton said at the 2010 press conference at the condos. “You are going to see other efforts directed at huge complexes like this. … This is just the beginning.”
It was the beginning – in the case of that property – of what then-Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons described at the same 2010 press conference as “a fairly complex legal situation.”
“What we’re talking about is individual owners of each different condo,” he said at the time.
Memphis Deputy Public Works Director Onzie Horne, speaking almost four years later, told those at the church that the condos are “atrocious.”
“There are very real, difficult problems we face with condominiums,” he said, adding that after nearly four years in Environmental Court, the city has it “down to a handful of issues” with that property.
“We have to give people what is called due process,” added Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom. “Sometimes citizens accept that the city is not going to do anything about it and they don’t report it.”
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong also said last week that getting the convenience store and gas station at the corner of Knight Arnold and Mendenhall closed even temporarily took a year and a half of investigation of that specific site that included undercover police officers making drug buys.
And Armstrong said the goal in such investigations is to go deeper than the drug buys.
“It takes a lot of documentation. It’s not that easy,” he said, as he talked of going deeper than the drug buys from dealers on the parking lot. “I assure you another person is taking his place on the corner.”
“This is serious business out there,” Rogers said as she pushed for continued court supervision of the business. “People are slipping through the cracks. He needs a security guard who is not an employee.”