Undercover operation ends with shutdown of three nuisance houses

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis police ended an undercover operation that spanned several months by shutting down three houses Monday they said were public nuisances.

Police Director Larry Godwin said the houses, including one in the Hollywood-Springdale neighborhood, served as hideouts for drug dealers and prostitutes.

"We're not going to allow the open drug market, the gangs and guns, to continue to destroy our city," Godwin said.

A quick look inside showed why Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons considered the house on Eldridge, along with two others, public nuisances.

"We're going to send a signal to the drug dealers that we're going after them," Gibbons said. "That this isn't business as usual."

Godwin said undercover officers caught 51 people, charging them with manufacturing and selling crack, meth, heroin, and many other drugs.  Five of the people arrested were members of the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, or Crips.

"If someone is waiting on the budget to get in the way of this, they have a hell of a long time to wait," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said.

A petition filed against the owners of the property on Eldridge, who are from Ohio, says the drug activity in the house led to assaults and burglaries in the neighborhood.

"There is a direct correlation between this and folks who steal lawn mowers," Wharton said. "Folks who steal your grill off your porch."

People in the neighborhood, frightened by the crime, said they hoped the closure will make a difference.

"You have a lot of killing and robbery, and you don't know if you're going to be next or not," said one woman, who did not want to be identified.

Gibbons said his office still working to track down the owners of the house.  Until then, it will likely stay boarded up.

Wharton said he hopes to get laws passed that make it easier for the city to condemn abandoned homes.

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