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Peppertree apartments deemed public nuisance

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:22 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis and Shelby County leaders have deemed the Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven a public nuisance after police responded to more than 1,600 service calls there in the last twenty months.

A judge ordered all new business at the property to stop.

Memphis and Shelby County leaders say the Peppertree Apartments have been on their radar because of the crime that happens there on a daily basis. Some have referred to Peppertree Apartments as a “war zone” of violence.

“This is a property that has been on our radar for a long time because of the number of calls that our officers respond to whether it’s gun violence, or whether it’s drug activity,” said Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis.

Memphis Police Department says in the past 20 months, officers responded to 120 calls for shootings, 216 calls involving guns, and 40 calls for fights. Two homicides have also been reported at the complex during that same time period.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich says enough is enough.

“It’s ridiculous that this location has been the site of this many calls for service with the Memphis Police Department that it has been the topic of this many conversations among the community,” said Weirich. “I hope any other property owner in town is listening to this and understands that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Weirich says the terms of the nusiance action states the Peppertree Apartments cannot take on any new tenants and current leases cannot be renewed.

TESCO Properties in Germantown owns the property.

According to their website, they manage properties in 11 states. They must now appear in environmental court on November 29 to tell a judge why the injunction shouldn’t be made permanent.

“The owners of this property must know that we will hold them accountable for the safety of their residents and for the nearby residents,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

The federally subsidized Peppertree Apartments were built in 1972. About 90% of the tenants are women and children, according to the district attorney’s office.

Elexus Virginia, a mother of four children, said security guards at the apartment complex make her feel safer. She added that she usually keeps to herself.

“I don’t know anyone. I don’t talk to anyone,” said Virginia.

Other tenants told Action News 5 that they don’t feel safe. They also said they are afraid to complain to apartment management.

Weirich said crime at the apartment complex not only threatens tenants but the neighborhood, which includes Hillcrest High School and Whitehaven Park.

TESCO Properties did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

Strickland says the Memphis Housing Authority will work with current Peppertree tenants to find affordable housing elsewhere. It’s not the first time legal action has been taken against Peppertree Apartments.

In 2006, a court ordered the property owner to improve safety, including installing an electronic gate and hiring additional security guards. The complex was also part of the Safeways programs, a collaboration between property managers and police to improve communications safety. But Peppertree is no longer part of the program because of unpaid dues.

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