First No-Gang Zone Sets Up in Riverside

By Bill Dries

The city and Memphis police began serving alleged gang members Monday with the city’s first try at establishing a no-gang safety zone in the Riverside area of southwest Memphis.

The first area with the designation in Memphis is bordered by South Parkway East to the north, West Mallory Street on the south, U.S. 55 on the west and Florida Street on the east.

It is the Riverside area once dominated by and home to Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties.

The gang injunction, issued by General Sessions Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter, names 40 people as leaders and members of the Riverside Rollin’ 90 Neighborhood Crips – or R-90 – street gang.

That includes Keeshund Prewitt, described in court papers as a 20-year member of the gang who joined when he was 12 years old.

The court order specifically forbids him and the others named from associating with each other in public, intimidating, having guns or other weapons or graffiti tools, recruiting, acting as lookouts, drinking in public or trespassing within the safety zone area.

The order permits police to arrest them within the zone for what in some cases would not be criminal offenses, and in others would be misdemeanors for which citations are issued.

Those named in the court order can file a motion in Environmental Court to try to opt out of the injunction. It requires that they declare in writing they are no longer a gang member and that they have had no arrests in the last two years nor have been in the company of active gang members, excluding immediate family.

The safety zones are made possible by a 2009 Tennessee law modeled on anti-gang safety zones used in Fresno, Calif., under similar court orders that target specific actions by citizens identified as gang members.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich, city attorney Herman Morris and the multi-agency gang unit that includes federal law enforcement agencies moved in court for the order following a 10-month investigation, which tallied 1,200 police calls within the zone, including at least one shooting call per day. A week before the nuisance petition was filed, four people were shot and wounded at Farrington Street and Hollowell Avenue, the intersection where Monday’s press conference was held to announce the effort.

After the press conference, city work crews painted over gang graffiti on the house at 1833 Farrington that marked the property as gang turf.