MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Residents of Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven have been crying out about crime for years, and now several families are homeless after an arson fire Tuesday.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich has heard those cries as loud as anyone. She says she and Memphis police are frustrated.
As District Attorney, she can shut down neighborhood nuisances that become a haven for crime. She has done it before.
But Weirich says closing Peppertree Apartments is easier said than done, with some 1,000 residents living there.
“Ninety-seven percent of the tenants there are women and children,” Weirich said. “To just shut them down and kick everybody out is a pretty extreme measure.”
But she says her office is building a case to take to Environmental Court and have them order changes.
“We are looking at all the tools we have available, not only in the D.A.’s office tool box, but I know MPD is looking at what they can do,” Weirich said.
Peppertree’s management company TESCO was pulled into court back in 2006 over violence and crime. It wasn’t shut down, but they couldn’t bring in new tenants.
They agreed to things like posting signage and installing fencing, so the order was dismissed later that same year. But it’s clear the problems are still there.
“There is still a responsibility of property owner and of management of properties to provide safe housing,” Weirich said.
For years WREG has tried to get a response from TESCO about Peppertree. No one would even return our calls. So we went to their Germantown office.
After minutes of knocking, a woman appeared and said no one there speaks to the media.
“We have been calling you all about issues at Peppertree, but nobody ever calls us back,” we told her.
“I can’t answer that question,” the woman replied.
Another worker came out, saw our camera and quickly pivoted and back behind closed doors.
We asked the woman who that person was. “None of your business,” she replied before closing the door.
After years of frustration from their tenants, TESCO had nothing to say. But Weirich says her office is on it.
“Our hearts break for the people that live there and feel they are literally and figuratively trapped,” said Weirich. “We are listening.”
Frustrated residents hope so.
“We don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this and they don’t want to do nothing about it,” resident Anderlyn Hunter told us in tears.
Peppertree is also subsidized housing. They get federal assistance to provide homes for low income residents.
We are told that could be an avenue, to see if they are meeting federal housing guidelines.