Calling Code Enforcement? Complaints get handled faster in some parts of Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A WREG investigation has uncovered a Code Enforcement trend that may surprise you.

Turns out, the city handles violations in the poorest part of town a lot faster than the richest.

38120 in East Memphis is the wealthiest ZIP code in town, but if you live there, and you call in a Code Enforcement violation, you’ll probably have to wait a while for it to get fixed.

Based on city data from 2017 and 2018, it takes Code Enforcement an average of 51 days to get calls resolved in 38120, and some take a lot longer. For example, a weeds violation in one yard took 262 days to correct.

But things go much faster for the city’s poorest ZIP code, 38126 in South Memphis. There, it takes an average of 20 days for Code Enforcement calls to get resolved, many more quickly than that. A weeds violation on a vacant lot in 38126 only took six days to fix.

Public Works Director Robert Knecht says the difference is simple: 38126 gets way more calls than 38120 — nearly 1,200 more from 2017 to the end of 2018.

“You have to focus where the issues are,” he said. “I mean, we’re not giving any area any different levels of service. We just need to put more officers in certain areas just based on the volume of calls just to make sure we are handling them as quickly as we can.”

That makes sense to Sonny White, and he lives in the 38120 ZIP code.

“I’d put it on the back burner. There’s fewer calls, probably not as serious and not as immediate a need,” he said. “I think it’s fair.”

Coleman Jones lives in the 38126 ZIP code and says he sees Code Enforcement rolling through all the time.

That’s because people like Dorothy Patton call 311 all the time.

“I mean, we call. My neighbors across the street call,” she said.

Problem is, violations seem to pop up as fast as they get fixed.

“It’s pitiful,” she said. “It is depressing looking at this.”

She blames the blight on irresponsible property owners.

When it comes to all 311 calls, not just Code Enforcement, things are actually balanced. It takes the city about the same amount of time to address an issue whether you live in the wealthiest part of town or the poorest.

For example, potholes don’t get filled any faster in any one part of town.

“We strive to keep it equal,” Knecht said. “Our mandate is five days but we’re averaging about two days.”

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