by Alex Coleman
November 16, 2009
Just a few houses down from where Annie Underwood plays on the porch with her three-year-old daughter Evana in North Memphis, police are boarding up and shutting down a neighborhood nuisance. She says she moved into her home back in March.
Underwood said, "It makes me feel a whole lot better because I really didn't know what was going on down there."
The abandoned home on 833 Mansfield had been turned into an illegal drug house. Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said in many cases the suspects were targeting children attending nearby schools.
Godwin said, "They prey on the kids walking to and from schools."
Inside the house was a sophisticated operation where weapons were hidden inside walls and where drugs were made and sold.
Godwin said, "The drugs that were sold out of this house, no one came into it. Everything was handled through a window in the bathroom. They let the dope out by strings, took their money first and then got their dope."
But police put them out of business as part of Operation: Street Sweep 23. The Shelby County Grand Jury returned indictments against 51 suspects. Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said many are also known gang members with the Gangster Disciples and Grape Street Crips.
Gibbons said, "This particular property is basically abandoned. Gang members and drug traffickers took it over and we asked the judge on the front end to have it boarded up."
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says he's pushing for tougher state laws to keep the suspects locked up. He says many are repeat offenders.
Wharton said, "Folks get out on bail and keep doing drugs, possessing weapons. They are a danger. I support a change in our state law to mirror that in federal court."
All together the Shelby County District Attorney's Office filed nuisance actions against 10 other properties throughout the city as police work to shutdown more suspected drug houses.