MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Nearly a week after a judge declared the property a public nuisance, the owners of the Peppertree Apartments shared their side of the story in court.
Prosecutors said the complex is a clear danger to the community.
Police said they’re called to Peppertree all the time, stating that there have been more than 120 shootings, dozens of fights, and hundreds of other incidents since March of last year.
Police said it happened just moments after he left an apartment.
The shooting came just hours after a judge ordered Peppertree to stop renewing leases and accepting new tenants.
Some of the people we spoke with say the complex is like a warzone.
“You come home, you have to run from bullets, you have to lay down from hearing bullets. it’s just – it’s crazy,” one neighbor said.
About a thousand people live at Peppertree, with 90% of them being women and children.
Mayor Jim Strickland said the city is working on a plan to help displaced residents find new homes.
Monday’s hearing could be the first time we hear from Peppertree’s owners after they declined to comment on the case when we reached out to them last week.
Representatives from their management company, TESCO, who have eluded our questions about crime and living conditions at the complex were there to provide answers but they didn’t do much talking.
Instead their attorney, Alexander Wharton, laid out why Peppertree should remain open despite a court injuction filed by the D.A. to halt any new tenants and any lease renewals.
Wharton said Peppertree’s federal contract to provide subsidized housing to families in need means they can’t just stop renewing leases if the tenant meets lease requirements. He said the complex is 85% full with some 900 residents, mostly under 25 years old.
“You have said the federal government cannot just put people out if they have met the requirements. Isn’t safety a requirement? It is and that is why HUD every year come in and does an inspection,” he said.
He says recertification inspections look at safety and living conditions and found no issues with Peppertree.
“If we look at what is going on across the city, it’s not just Peppertree. If we look at commercial properties. You all covered the story recently about Oak Court Mall. Within the last 6 months Oak Court Mall has 2 murders. and that’s a commercial property,” Wharton said.
The District Attorney said there have been more than 1,500 police calls to the complex in the past 20 months, active drug trafficking, two homicides and an arson fire that destroyed 10 units.
Wharton also said as a part of the Safeways program, that guides troubled apartment complexes, Peppertree has opened its books and will continue to do so.
“We talk about foliage issues, we talk about lighting issues. Things that have been addressed in the last 3 to 6 months,” he said.
The District Attorney’s office said Peppertree is no longer a part of the Safeways program after failing to pay dues.
A judge Monday reset the case until Thursday, December 2nd. The temporary injunction is still in place.
Seventeen Peppertree families have leases coming up for renewal in the next 60 days. Wharton says tenants whose leases come up before Thursday’s hearing will get an automatic renewal, which is 12 months.