DA explains public nuisance declaration process for concerned neighbors

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich declared a Berclair home a public nuisance Friday, after she said police responded to the Ronnie Road home 85 times in the last two years.

The home is owned by Jac-Co Construction Company; one of the company owners told WREG on Friday that he had no knowledge of the multitude of calls at his property.

He said he inspects the home every other month and was hoping to evict renter Betty Pratt so he could sell the home soon.

Many of the calls to police came from neighbor Walter Bemis, who said he has seen his Berclair neighborhood change in the 34 years since he moved to the area.

"It used to be all home ownership," he said.

He said Pratt moved in three years ago and immediately started causing trouble.

“The drug traffic, the shooting, a little bit of everything. The prostitution,” Bemis said.

That’s why he called police “at least 60 times, and that’s last year.”

Weirich said Bemis did the right thing to help authorities build a case.

"None of this can happen in the courts without the community, without citizens and without neighbors picking up phone and letting law enforcement know,” Weirich said.

She said Tennessee state law allows her to declare a home a public nuisance if there are records of public health risks like prostitution and gang activity.

She says in 2016, she declared six locations public nuisances; three were private residences, while three were businesses.

“It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep citizens safe. And if you’re a homeowner or shop owner and you're gonna allow criminal activity, we're going to do something about it,” she said.

In the Ronnie Road case, all the calls paid off.

“It is a relief, believe me,” Bemis said.

He also had advice for other concerned citizens in similar situations.

"Just be persistent. That’s all you can do. That’s what we've done, been persistent and finally something's been done," he said.

Weirich said there's no timeline for how long it typically takes authorities to build a case.

"It just depends on what kind of criminal activity is and what kind of proof we can put together," she said.

The DA's office will face Jac-Co Construction Company in environmental court Monday morning. A judge will decide whether to permanently condemn the home.