Six properties closed in "Operation Rock Star"

Memphis Mayor W.W. Herenton, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons announced Thursday that the Memphis Police Department's Undercover Operations Unit and the D.A.'s Office have closed six residential properties.

They include one apartment complex-under the Tennessee nuisance law where the sale and use of illegal drugs, namely crack cocaine, frequently occurred.

The nuisance actions were the result of the "Operation Rock Star" investigation. Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter issued temporary injunctions against the owners of six properties located at 1320 Englewood, 1330 Englewood, 1334 Englewood, 980 Eldridge, 785 North Dunlap, and 1954 Elvis Presley.

Additionally, nuisance actions were filed against the owners of two additional properties, but consent orders were filed in those cases.

The properties located at 1375 Woodward and 1523 Preston will remain open because the owners have agreed to take specific steps to help stop drug sales and other crimes from occurring on the premises.

As a result of five undercover operations by the Memphis Police Department since the start of Operation Blue CRUSH TM , the D.A.'s Office has filed nuisance actions against a total of 64 locations.

One of the properties closed Thursday, a one-strip apartment complex located at 1954 Elvis Presley Boulevard, was closed because, according to the petition, it operates as a haven for criminal activity including the sale of drugs and other crimes.

The petition alleges that drug sales at 1954 Elvis Presley are "wide-open, occurring regularly, systematically and without any regard for the law."

The petition goes on to say that 1954 Elvis Presley is an apartment complex "under the de facto control of a convicted felon and reputed pimp, Anthony Lewis, with either a majority or all of its residents supporting his criminal enterprise."

On eight occasions, from February through April, undercover officers in the MPD's Undercover Operations Unit purchased crack cocaine from dealers at 1954 Elvis Presley.

During their investigation, undercover officers have also, on multiple occasions, observed traffic and other activities consistent with drug and prostitution activity.

"Operation Rock Star," which started in January and concluded in April, extended to various neighborhoods throughout Memphis and Millington, although all of the nuisance actions took place in Memphis.

In addition to the nuisance actions, on May 8, the state Grand Jury returned 302 indictments against 129 defendants for felony drug charges as a result of the investigation.

"This operation not only took drug dealers off the streets, it targeted the places where the drugs were sold.

By closing these properties, we're cutting the supply of drugs and helping to curb some of the spill-over crimes, like prostitution, in these neighborhoods," said District Attorney Gibbons.

"It is my goal to continue to fight for whatever resources Director Godwin needs so that the Memphis Police Department can continue to rid our neighborhoods of these types of nuisances and crime ridden areas," said Mayor Herenton.

Tennessee law states that the District Attorney General has authority to bring a civil action against any establishment deemed a nuisance.

The statute defines a nuisance, in part, as "any place in or upon which... unlawful sale of any regulated legend drug, narcotic or other controlled substance...quarrelling, drunkenness, fighting, or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted."

The District Attorney's Office, working with investigations by the Memphis Police Department and as part of Operation Blue CRUSH TM , has filed nuisance petitions against the owners of numerous properties-both residential and businesses-under the Tennessee nuisance law.

Some nuisance actions have resulted in permanent closure of the properties. Others have reopened under consent orders to alleviate the nuisance.