Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Where the tent city once stood - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Joe Birch

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Where the tent city once stood

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A south Memphis neighborhood remains a haven for drug dealing even though a key center for illegal transactions is long gone. 

A tent once sat on a hill near Preston and Waldorf, which neighbors told us last April was a hub of criminal activity where addicts traded stolen items for drugs.

"They go grab something, take it on the hill and get rid of it for little or nothing," one neighbor said. "Expensive items. All they want is a bump."

Back in May 2007, there were 50 burglaries in a one mile radius of the tent. After our stories aired, police busted the tent-dwellers on drug charges and ripped down their tent!

"This is part of the house closure from the Blue Crush operation we conducted on May 10th," Memphis police Lt. Howell Starnes said on May 16th.

With the tent now, burglary is down. Instead of 50, in a recent 30 day period, there were 16 break-ins within one mile of the tent's former site.

"I been around here 44 years," south Memphis resident John Bradley, Jr. said. "It's not as rampant as it was with the tent. With the tent, there was more access. Without the tent, it's decreased some with the activity."

But the rates of other crime remains extremely high near Preston and Waldorf, long famous as a drive-through drug dealing super-center.

"Day after day, and it's amazing," Rev. James Morganfield said. "You get cars with Mississippi tags coming in this neighborhood to get drugs."

Morganfield, who preaches at Branch of Christ Missionary Baptist Church, ministers to buyers and sellers of drugs and everyone else in this neighborhood, where the drug man is as familiar as the postman:

"Maybe if enough of us talk about it, maybe, eventually, it will effect a change," he said. "Now, they'll move individuals out that talk too much. Then, no talking to be done at all."

Removing the tent was a bare beginning to slowing crime in this tough neighborhood. In a recent 30 day period in a one mile radius of Preston and Waldorf there were 35 domestic violence arrests, 10 aggravated assaults, 14 robberies, 2 rapes and a homicide.

Many are afraid to talk openly about crime as they struggle to get by.  Someone one day may lead the charge to take back this neighborhood but for the moment, drug dealers and other criminals appear to rule.

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