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VOL. 129 | NO. 196 | Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Gang Zone Targets Legends Park Area

By Bill Dries

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In June a group of 100 gang members lined both sides of Mosby Avenue between Dunlap and Ayers Streets, shutting down the area, as they celebrated the birthday of a fellow gang member, according to the local Multi-Agency Gang Unit.

“Your criminal activity in this safety zone has come to an end today,” Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said Monday of the no gang zone court order issued for the Medical Center area.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

The incident is one of numerous instances the gang unit and the District Attorney General’s office cited in a 10-month investigation that led to a court order Monday, Oct. 6, declaring the medical center area including the Legends Park development as a “safety zone” or no gang area.

Legends Park is the mixed-use mixed-income development that was built on the site of the old Dixie Homes public housing development.

The street gang named in the Environmental Court order signed by General Sessions Judge Larry Potter is known as the Dixie Homes Murda Gang, 47 Neighborhood Crips and Team 400 among other names.

And 50 alleged gang members, including six alleged leaders, are specifically named in the court order forbidding them to so much as stand on a street corner in the area bordered by Jackson Avenue, Danny Thomas Boulevard, Poplar Avenue and Interstate 240.

“What the gang injunction does is give those officers … the ability to make an arrest if these gang members are simply loitering, if the gang members are simply standing around, if these gang members are simply intimidating,” said District Attorney General Amy Weirich. “It tells the gangs that the community has had enough. Gangs work in numbers as we know. They get strength from one another.”

The court order describes the gang as “a violent, drug dealing organized street gang” whose members have committed numerous violent crimes as part of the gang, including murders.

One of the gang members, identified as the owner of “Byrd Family Grill” on Decatur, was served with a copy of the order on the business parking lot just before Weirich announced the no gang zone in the middle of Decatur Street with the business as the backdrop.

The grill is owned by James Hall, according to the court order.

Hall is identified in the same order as the highest ranking member of the gang that is a combination of several gangs in the area.

“Your criminal activity within this safety zone has come to an end today,” Weirich said from the podium.

Decatur Street is the eastern border of Legends Park, a development the city secured millions of dollars in federal funding for to first demolish Dixie Homes, one of the city’s first two public housing projects, and then build from the ground up the Legends Park subdivision.

“There’s no way in the world we are going to stand idly by and let one joint like this out of which they were operating kind of a headquarters destroy all of this investment,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said.

The area includes Methodist Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center as well as St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. Wharton has said over several years that Le Bonheur’s decision to rebuild its medical center at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Dunlap was prompted by the redevelopment of the Dixie Homes site.

“This is why we wanted to nip it in the bud,” Wharton said Monday. “We are still developing. We’re getting ready to put many more millions in here. We’re putting millions of dollars in here in public and private dollars.”

Among the photos cited as evidence in getting the no gang zone are several pictures of alleged gang members throwing gang signs outside the business.

The pictures, some posted on social media, are among the evidence that comes into play in court.

Those identified as gang members in such a court order can contest it in court which Weirich said was tried by one identified gang member in the city’s first no gang zone in the Riverside section of southwest Memphis a year ago.

“Once the 14th photograph of him or Facebook posting was shown to Judge Potter that was kind of the end of that song,” she said.

Those living on both sides of Decatur watched Monday’s announcement. Some said it was welcome. Others who said they were gang members said they were familiar with how the zones operate. Still others questioned how they could be stopped from standing on a street corner.

“We can’t be with each other?” one asked, as others laughed and walked away.

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