Memphis police launch pedestrian-friendly traffic control plan for Downtown area

Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 3:45 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Downtown Memphis has been lawless night after night for months now.

Mayor Strickland admitted to Action News 5 on Monday he didn’t realize Memphis police changed their patrol and enforcement pattern for the entertainment district around Beale Street many weeks ago.

But after eight people were shot Downtown last weekend, the Memphis Police Department unveiled a new plan—one of the most restrictive traffic control enforcements in recent memory.

MPD announce plan to preserve safety of pedestrians in Downtown Memphis
MPD announce plan to preserve safety of pedestrians in Downtown Memphis(Memphis Police Department)

According to MPD, this plan was crafted to ensure the safety of Memphians and to preserve the pedestrian-friendly culture that downtown is known for.

Midnight twerking in the middle of Union Avenue. Huge crowds gathering on Fourth Street to watch drivers doing donuts. Smoke rising from cars performing burnouts near Peabody Place.

The streets of Downtown Memphis have grown increasingly dangerous in the last two months. And then last weekend, around 12:30 a.m., a Memphis police officer got pummeled while trying to break up a crowd of spectators watching reckless drivers leave skid marks on the street across from AutoZone Park.

Two hours later at 2:30 a.m., MPD said eight people were shot when a suspect in an Infiniti SUV opened fire.

One of the bullets went through a tourist’s hotel window in the Hampton Inn nearby at B.B. King Boulevard and Peabody Place.

But in the wake of the violence, the city’s top leader said he was unaware MPD had changed the way it protected Downtown.

“Well, unbeknownst to me,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, “30 to 60 days ago that plan was changed because owners of bars asked that it be changed.”

Thursday, MPD released a new, tougher traffic control plan for the Downtown Entertainment District, utilizing more officers in more strategic locations.

Traffic will flow both ways along Union Avenue and MLK Boulevard, with most cross streets blocked by barricades to establish what MPD calls a “pedestrian-friendly corridor” on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

MPD said a “no cruising zone ordinance” will be enforced, and no “pop-up street parties” will be allowed.

Candidates vying for Memphis mayor weighed in on the new traffic control plan.

Memphis-Shelby County School Board member and mayoral hopeful Michelle McKissack gave a statement on the new safety plan being implemented:

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, also running for mayor, released the following statement:

Former NAACP Memphis president and former Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, who is also aiming for the top spot in Memphis, said, “People don’t live downtown necessarily, the ones who are committing all the crime. But people are coming to Downtown.

“So, we have to address where they’re coming from, and we have to invest in our neighborhoods and our communities to truly address crime in this community.”

Mayoral candidate and Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young agreed Downtown was out of control last weekend.

“Nobody likes to see those circumstances,” he said. “It’s a constant effort to ensure that we are keeping our eyes on what strategies are going to change the game.”

The traffic control barricades go up across Downtown Memphis starting at 8 p.m. Friday night.

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