The University of Memphis’ Public Safety Institute has released its 61-page report for making downtown Memphis safer and more livable.  The 61-page plan has 43 recommendations and 166 action steps to addressing some of the nagging safety issues facing downtown.

This seems largely a compendium of everyone’s favorite ideas and makes some clumsy “what if” points, as it does with Tom Lee Park.  That said, it is a welcome addition to the discussion about downtown at a time when residents and workers are demanding a stronger commitment by Downtown Memphis Commission to a safer, cleaner, and more livable environment.

The thorough report considers crime reduction but also the link between public safety, economic growth, and quality of life.

The report addresses 13 areas:

  • The pedestrian part of Main Street
  • The Beale Street Entertainment District
  • Police presence in the Beale Street Entertainment District
  • Parking facilities
  • The role of the Blue Suede Brigade
  • Increasing pedestrian traffic and tying Downtown together through wayfinding signage and tours
  • Tom Lee Park and other river parks
  • Traffic control and circulation
  • Specific crime hotspots
  • Increasing pedestrian visibility through regular street performances
  • Downtown homelessness
  • Aggressive panhandling
  • The need for more coordination, cooperation and information sharing  

Some key recommendations from the report are:

  • Execute a new MOU defining responsibilities for the pedestrian part of Main Street (a first MOU was executed years ago).
  • Increase police presence on the pedestrian part of Main Street
  • Enact a new city ordinance giving Downtown Memphis Commission employees clear authority to issue parking
  • Enforce the curfew ordinance, looking at best practices from cities that have similar ordinances.
  • End alcohol sales in the Beale Street Entertainment District no later than 2 m.
  • Deploy more police officers (both uniform and plain clothes) in the Beale Street Entertainment District.
  • Practice Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) at parking facilities, especially multi-story garages, and in known crime hotspots.
  • As part of CPTED, implement the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Anti­ Trespass Program in multi-story garages and enforce it.
  • Increase the authority and visibility of the Blue Suede Brigade.
  • Encourage participation in Connect2Memphis, especially for cameras at parking facilities and known crime hotspots.
  • Develop more wayfinding signage as a way of improving connectivity, including connectivity between the core of Downtown and Tom Lee Park and other river
  • Ensure enforcement of traffic laws.
  • Improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists through lighting, infrastructure upgrades, and signage.
  • Create more pedestrian traffic through street-level special events and pop-up entertainment.
  • Establish comprehensive service coordination to address Downtown homelessness.
  • Enforce the city ordinance against aggressive panhandling during certain hours and at certain high traffic locations.
  • Formalize a DMC Youth Advisory Council to receive feedback on appropriate youth-focused activities for Downtown and youth perceptions of public safety.
  • Create more structured interagency coordination and information-sharing.

 The report added: “We acknowledge that addressing the long-term issues facing the community such as an improved education system; providing compensatory education; tax and other incentives for employers; community development initiatives, especially related to housing; and aggressive zoning and code enforcement will create economic growth and progress. Crime prevention and reduction is only one part of the puzzle. But helping businesses reduce their crime-related costs and residents reduce their fears and apprehension is critical to making lasting changes to the community.”

The plan is populated with data, results of a survey, and an appendix will lists all possible steps.  It can be read at

The plan was funded by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners which provided $50,000 to the Downtown Memphis Commission to pay for the plan.  DMC in turn commissioned University of Memphis to develop the report through its Public Safety Institute. 

The authors of the report are Bill Gibbons, executive director of the PSI, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, former district attorney for Shelby County and former TN commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security; John Gnuschke, Ph.D., president of 907 Economics, former director of the Sparks Bureau of Business at the UofM and former director of the UofM Center for Manpower Studies; Stan Hyland, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the UofM Department of Anthropology and former head of the UofM School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy; Michael RaIlings, former chief of the Memphis Police Department; Marty Lipinski, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the UofM Department of Civil Engineering and member of the MATA Board of Commissioners; Janine Heiner, former director of the SafeWays Certification Program; and James ‘Max’ Helms, research assistant for the PSI.



Join us at the Smart City Memphis Facebook page and on Instagram for daily articles, reports, and commentaries that are relevant to Memphis.