Changes to Memphis Riverfront could reduce crime, shore up safety

Riverfront Development Corporation President Benny Lendermon (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Riverfront Development Corporation President Benny Lendermon (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Fear and frustration lingered Monday among some Downtown Memphis residents after gunshots rang out again this weekend near Riverside Drive.

A person living inside the Waterford Plaza condos captured dramatic Facebook video showing the bullets flying.

At 3 a.m. Sunday a woman found her car's rear and rear passenger windows had been shot out.

For the first time, we are hearing different options that could improve riverfront safety.

"Sure, it's alarming, but it's isolated incidents when you see that occurring," said Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corporation.

Some Downtown residents disagreed with Lendermon's evaluation. They said the shootings are not isolated incidents.

"We've been fed up for a long time," said Pat Taylor, Waterford Plaza condo resident. "What's it going to take before someone takes some action to stop this problem?"

For the last two weekends, people living Downtown have had to deal with shootings--including one at Tom Lee Park that injured two people.

"Design of the riverfront has to deal with safety issues," Lendermon said.

Lendermon said his group is discussing new ways to make the area safer: reducing Riverside Drive to two lanes to control excessive cruising and temporarily closing Riverside Drive on weekends.

Lendermon explained the city and RDC may also look into slowing the speed limit, charging for parking, and increasing the number of parking lots but reducing their size.

"It's set up in a way that's convenient to attract a large crowd of people in a very small place. When you do that you cause problems," he said.

Memphis police stepped up patrols in the park this past weekend, a short term and immediate reaction to the weekend violence.

Police last week met with leaders of the Downtown Memphis Commission and Riverfront Development Corporation, but Lendermon said the talks are just beginning. A larger security meeting with more stakeholders at the table is in the works.

As for Memphis in May security, Lendermon said he doesn't have any concerns.

"When Memphis In May comes in and shuts down the roadway, the problem truly goes away," he said.

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