Crime in Central Gardens

The Central Gardens Board President has posted an essay in NextDoor regarding Crime and Safety in Central Gardens.

It is a thoughtful piece, copied below.

All of us want safer neighborhoods, but it seems that despite so many efforts we are finding the opposite.

Most of us have alarm systems, cameras, neighbors who watch our street; still it doesn’t stop robberies, burglaries and assaults. Why?

The community is hoping that more cameras and more Phelps trucks will help. I doubt it.

As you read this, ask why now is so different from the 70s and 80s. Maybe the fact that crooks are not incarcerated has something to do with it. We all read terrible stories where the police arrest someone and then he/she is spotted out again, doing the same crimes. It must be terribly frustrating for the police.
Warm weather is blamed for some of the crime, but isn’t it really because more kids are out of school and roaming the streets?
What about the deeper cultural problem of kids being brought up without caring fathers? Not a quick remedy, but a long range one.

We are asked to do more about crime, but discouraged from owning guns. We’re supposed to pay for our own defense, but discouraged from defending ourselves.

I don’t think the precautions they are looking for will be any more successful.

Here’s the president’s article:

Due to our central location in Memphis, our Central Gardens neighborhood has since the 1970s been a target for robberies, break-ins and theft.

There is much we can say in attempt to alleviate the anxieties these crimes instill. We can say it’s only a select few bad apples that are committing these crimes. We can blame the heat – crime does in fact increase along with the temperatures, and with the holidays come the porch bandits. We can say Hey, we live in a city – many other cities have the same issues we have and it’s up to each of us to be vigilant. And we can say that we as a neighborhood enjoy a crime rate that is significantly lower than any of our neighbors to the north, south, east or west.

All of this is true. But it doesn’t help us when confronted with a gunman at 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday while walking our dog.

August 28 Meeting at the University Club–
Three weeks ago our neighborhood association hosted a meeting at the University Club – close to 150 of you showed up – and we discussed these same issues of crime in the neighborhood that have persisted for over 40 years. Some have commented that crime seems on the rise of late, and with it an increased blatancy by criminals. Officers from our local Crump Station attended the meeting and reminded us of the little things we can all do day to day to improve safety:
locking our car doors and front doors;
removing valuables from our cars;
cutting back vegetation and hedges for better site lines and eyes on the street;
lighting the outsides of our houses;
improve lighting conditions in the alleys;
installing security cameras to catch criminals in the act;
staying off our smart phones, being diligent and paying attention while out on our walks.

We were reminded, though they are simple and hardly the “big” answer to crime, that these small efforts add up to larger, longer-term deterrents that take away criminals’ easy targets.

Since that meeting, we of the Central Gardens Neighborhood Association have initiated other efforts to address these issues. We have:

➢ Filled the chairperson vacancy on our Crime & Safety Committee and now have a leader dedicated to taking the next necessary steps.
➢ Begun exploring ways to better communicate (outside of NextDoor) with the entire neighborhood, potential block associations and additional neighborhood-watch programs.
➢ Explored the coordinated use of additional, private security cameras and camera networks.
➢ Added two email addresses to the Central Gardens platform to help us facilitate and better respond to specific issues:
o For questions and suggestions on cameras, please email us at [email protected]
o For questions and suggestions on alleys, alley cleanup, alley safety, etc., please email us at [email protected]

Historic Efforts – Private ‘Cops’ —
Back in the late 1970s, the Central Gardens Association devised another deterrent: “Hire your own cops.”

As Peggy Williamson reminded me recently, her husband Jim was instrumental in initiating the neighborhood’s first security patrol. And Barbara Viser’s book Central Gardens – Stories of a Neighborhood reminds us of a front porch meeting between neighbors (the aforementioned) Jim Williamson, Bill Craddock and Tom Givens. Givens was a private investigator and owner of a small security service, and he came up with the simple yet innovative solution – “Hire your own cops” – and brought the University Security Service into the neighborhood with a one-car, 24-hour patrol.

“The crime rate plummeted after we took over,” Givens said of the time. “It was not unusual in those early years to make an average of ten to fifteen felony arrests per month. We were able to accomplish a lot that most people didn’t know about. We put several hundred criminals in jail and made a real impact on the quality of life in the neighborhood. Our service ended up being a model for several other neighborhood patrols across the country.”

Today we have Phelps Security, Inc. Their signature red pickups with the yellow graphics can be seen day and night patrolling the neighborhood’s streets. In addition, Phelps’ service in Central Gardens is unique in that they provide additional security measures such as vacation checks, mail collection, and even babysitter checks to their subscribers.

One More 24-7 Truck Is Needed–
As of today we have one truck that is on duty 7 days a week, and in the last year with the help subscriptions we have added another truck that patrols one day a week.

Based on both historical and current statistics we have and as compared to the rest of Midtown, a safe argument can be made that it is the Phelps Security patrols that have contributed the most to the lower numbers in crime here in the neighborhood. As of last month we had 458 subscriptions amongst the 1500+ households in the neighborhood. 40 more subscribers are needed to reach the 498 necessary to add another patrol truck that would be on duty 24-7.

Based on our experience, we believe that a second 24-7 truck will help significantly.

Of course, Cameras–
Another truck, as well as all the other previously-mentioned steps we can take collectively, can add up to deterrents. This of course includes coordinating efforts with the neighborhood to have private security cameras installed in key locations.

With a recently-completed and successful Home Tour, we raised a few extra dollars that we hope to use to subsidize camera installations. With more neighborhood memberships, we may be able to do even more.

All of these efforts require your help, your input, and your participation. Our new Crime & Safety chair may be reaching out to some of you in the coming weeks to further coordinate these efforts. So stay tuned!

Meanwhile, please consider:
➢ Signing up for the Central Gardens Newsletter, here. Newsletters keep you informed and with your contact information, allow us to more easily facilitate communications with the neighborhood.
➢ Becoming a Central Gardens member, here. Your membership can help us subsidize camera installations.
➢ Subscribing to Phelps Security, here: Our biggest known deterrent to crime, your subscription can help add another 24-7 patrol truck to the neighborhood.
➢ Organizing a Neighborhood Watch. Go to or email [email protected]
➢ Attend Grant Workshops and apply for a $2,500 Neighborhood Crime Prevention Grant. Go to and email [email protected] to sign up for a workshop. Workshops are coming up Sept. 30, Oct. 7, 16 and 26, and Nov. 5.

Your involvement and contributions make a difference.

Mark Fleischer
Central Gardens Board President

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