Drug Dealers Have No Home in Memphis

photo credit:  Shelby County District Attorney General    

Drug Dealers Have 

No Home in Memphis

The Shelby County District Attorney General’s office is hard at work in partnership with the police and the business community to manage specific initiatives that help create a safe community. One key program that has existed for 17 years is the Drug Dealer Eviction Program (DDEP).  

The DDEP, just as it sounds, evicts arrested drug dealers and, in best case scenarios, keeps them on the run and unable to rent housing in another part of the city. “It takes just one dealer to destroy a neighborhood,” said Commissioner Bill Gibbons, TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security and Memphis Fast Forward’s Chairman of Operation: Safe Community. The DDEP receives information every week day from the police department about drug-related arrests. One of three actions can be taken to remove a dealer from an apartment community – first, the tenant may choose to voluntarily leave upon receiving a letter. If that doesn’t happen, the landlord may file eviction action. If that is not done, the state also has the authority to file eviction action. 

“The point is to send a clear, strong message that Memphis is not a friendly place for drug dealers and they will not be allowed to take up residence in our apartment communities,” continued Commissioner Gibbons. 

As of March 2013, 3,693 convicted dealers have been removed from apartment communities through the DDEP. 

On the prevention side, the DDEP’s newest tool aims to engage apartment owners and managers in the process of stopping dealers before they have a chance to move into a community. The “DDEP Database” became available just this year under the leadership of Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and is a publicly accessible, online system for property managers to search prospective tenant names and determine if they have been involved in a drug-related removal from a rental property.

“Property owners are the key to success in using the DDEP Database as a prevention measure,” said GeneralWeirich. “We know this tool has already stopped dealers from moving into our neighborhoods, and we’re really encouraged by the number of landlords who have already stepped up to be involved in the DDEP and who are spreading the word to their peers in the community.”

The DDEP Database is accessible by visiting the Shelby County District Attorney General website (scroll to the bottom of the page). 

With apartment complexes often serving as mini communities of their own, engaging property owners and managers in issues of crime, safety and economic development is an imperative piece of Memphis Fast Forward’s comprehensive plan to accelerate economic prosperity and quality of life. 

This is why Operation: Safe Community, an initiative of Memphis Fast Forward, is an advocate of the DA Office’s new DDEP Database and has elevated expansion of the database to one of 15 priorities in 2013. 

A sister program to the DDEP, called Project Safeways, uses a complimentary  “Anti-Trespass policy” to help address the full cycle of drug activity in rental properties. “The philosophy of the Anti-Trespass Initiative is that apartment communities are strictly for law-abiding tenants and their invited guests,” explained General Weirich. “If you don’t fall into one of those two categories, you probably don’t belong there.”

Anti-Trespass has helped prevent drug buyers, thieves, gang members and other destructive types of people from being accepted on rental community property. “Between being able to make arrests for trespassing and being able to evict people for selling drugs, law enforcement and property owners are working together to clean up and turn around our neighborhoods,” General Weirich concluded.

Expansion of the DDEP Database is part of  Operation: Safe Community’s Goal Three: to Reduce Blight, Problem Properties and Crimes in Apartment Complexes. 

For more information on this story or Operation: Safe Community generally, please contact Michelle Fowlkes, Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Executive Director, at mfowlkes@memphiscrime.org

As one of five pillars in the Memphis Fast Forward strategy, Operation: Safe Community is complemented by PeopleFirst Partnership, Growth Alliance, Healthy Shelby and Government Fiscal Strength to achieve collective impact toward economic prosperity and quality of life in the greater Memphis region.