MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New statistics obtained from the Memphis Police Department reveal the ZIP code encompassing Frayser had the most burglaries of any in the city from January of 2018 until May of 2019.
Jherriel Montgomery was one of 742 victims during the 16-month period. She is still recovering, not just from her three-day hospital stay this April, but also from what she found when she got home.
She explained how two people broke into her Frayser apartment and took a big screen television plus $450 cash.
“This is the drawer right here they got the money out of," she said from her unit in the Ridgecrest Apartments on Woodcliff Drive.
Montgomery was homeless before she moved in to the apartment with help from the Salvation Army.
“The Lord blessed me with something so I got my babies out the shelter," she said.
Montgomery’s case is one of a staggering number: 742 burglaries in 16 months. That works out to an average of more than 1.5 a day.
“People don’t care. People don’t care," she said.
Laura Smith’s family of four also learned the hard way.
“Wow. That’s a lot," Smith said. "Didn’t know that before I came over here but I found out.”
They moved to a home on Whitney Avenue in Frayser from an apartment in Raleigh.
The family took a day trip to Nashville earlier this year. When they came home, the house looked disheveled.
“The back door was wide open and TVs were gone,” Smith said. “I see the stand was empty. I walked through the back of the house. It was tore up in the back.”
“And they stole the Xbox from me,” her young son added.
Smith said burglars took thousands of dollars worth of electronics, jewelry and even guns.
And now that she knows the statistics — that she's much more likely to be a victim in Frayser than anywhere else in Memphis — she's re-thinking their rental house choice.
“It’s time to find some other place to stay," she said.
But there is an upside here.
“I wanted to dig deeper and explain what’s going on in that area code because it seemed high," said Memphis Police Col. Gregory Sanders.
Sanders is in charge of the Old Allen precinct, which covers both Raleigh and Frayser.
He says of those 742 burglaries, 100 were vacant properties.
He also says even though the numbers are high, they are going down.
“Our last 28 days, I’ll use residential burglaries, we’re down here at the Old Allen station 36 percent. In 2018 we had 77 during that time frame, this year we had 49,” Sanders said.
He says the precinct is in its third year of hiring four extra officers a day and paying them overtime to proactively patrol.
“They're extra eyes and boots on the ground for preventive stuff. Especially now during summer time," he said.
For perspective, WREG looked at the next highest ZIP codes for burglaries. The areas including Oakhaven, Parkway Village and Fox Meadows — 38118 and 38115 — ranked second and third during the prescribed time period. They each had about 10% less burglaries than Frayser, but still an average of much more than one a day.
Bill Gibbons with the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission says he can explain the burglaries with one main reason.
“Drug addiction is probably the driving force behind property crime as far as burglaries," Gibbons said.
Gibbons echoed Sanders, saying property crime is decreasing this year compared with last. He credited community efforts like building up neighborhood watch groups, particularly in Frayser.
“At least through the first quarter of this year, reported burglaries are down about 10 percent compared to first quarter last year. That’s encouraging,” he said.
But it’s hard to tell that to Jherriel Montgomery and Laura Smith.
“I’m scared to leave here. I left here one time since it happened. I just said, 'Lord watch my house,'” Montgomery said.
“It’s had an impact on our lives because it’s like we have to start all over again, building up the stuff we had," Smith said.
They know it could take years to replace not just their stuff, but also their security.