Police task force cleans up downtown tourist area

The view of the Memphis skyline from the edge of the mighty Mississippi is inviting.

But just behind the downtown visitor's center are some uninvited guests.

"The first thing that folks see when they come into town is folks walking back and forth from these areas here," said John McClain, a lieutenant with the Memphis Police Department.

In an overgrown area behind a flood wall, vagrants have set up camp.

"They have tents set up, clotheslines, toiletries, toothpaste...this is their home," McClain said.
It's one of 15 downtown locations where members of the Memphis Police Quality of Life Task Force could be found cleaning up Friday.

Mounds of garbage were loaded onto tarps, hauled up the riverbank, and dumped into a sanitation truck.

The area, which police say is a goldmine for panhandlers, is just a few feet from the downtown visitor's center, a place hundreds of tourists visit every day.

"We have places in town for the homeless to stay, not out in the open area like this setting up camp," McClain said.

And, according to McClain, committing crimes.

"They're breaking into cars, stealing what they can, and then trading it in for their drugs," he said.

Police hope their clean up will make a dent in the crime rate, and keep unwelcome campers from coming back home.

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