VOL. 131 | NO. 108 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Downtown Memphis Commission Taking Safety Actions
By Madeline Faber
At its May 26 board meeting, discussions at the Downtown Memphis Commission dove into the death of a teenager who was shot at the corner of Second Street and Peabody Place.
“I feel this personally,” said Terence Patterson, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission. “We’re really focusing on it and making sure we’re doing everything we can, but we have to have collaboration with MPD (Memphis Police Department). But we know that we’ve got to do more.”
Myneishia Johnson died on May 22, just before she was set to graduate from high school.
Van Turner, DMC board member and Shelby County commissioner, pointed out that the shooter was apprehended within minutes. That short response time is difficult to achieve in any part of the city, particularly in Downtown Memphis, which Turner said has fewer police officers on patrol. He proposed a strategy to bring Shelby County Sheriff’s Office personnel into Downtown’s hotspots.
“Allocation is not always seen as a need because we’re seen as so safe,” he said.
Deni Reilly, owner of The Majestic Grille restaurant, said Downtown is at a disadvantage because of this view.
“We’ve been basing strategies on stats from months past or years past, and Downtown is changing in just six months with all the new building,” she said, referring to new housing and commercial developments. “Our population is increasing and our police presence is decreasing. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Reilly, who just signed a new lease for her restaurant at 145 S. Main St. one block from Johnson’s slaying, said she’s worried about the safety of her employees.
“We’ve had quite a few incidents happen in the past two months really, whereas we had one in the past 10 years,” she said. “As we told the mayor, we just signed a 10-year lease and we’ll pull out of it if things don’t change. And we’re serious about that.”
Turner said he’s working with the Shelby County Commission to establish an ad-hoc committee on crime and homicide led by interim MPD director Michael Rallings and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham. The aim of the committee would be to work out ways to redirect resources from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to problem areas, especially in Downtown.
“The sheriff has requested 30 more officers, and I think a big part of that request is to address and assist in some of those areas that are problematic,” Turner said.
The MPD, suburban police forces and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office already collaborate in the Metro Gang Unit and the Metro Narcotics Unit. Turner hopes to establish a Metro Homicide Unit to slow the homicide rate.
“If there’s an over-surplus of officers in some of the areas of the county which don’t necessarily need that surplus, maybe we could shift that surplus Downtown and to where we would consider the hotspots of the city which may need more patrolling.”
The six Memphis-area suburbs have a lesser problem with crime, he said. Suburban police forces might be open to taking on more of the burden within their areas to free up resources from the sheriff’s office.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary,” Patterson said. “We’ve had some conversations internally about engaging the sheriffs Downtown.”