MEMPHIS, Tenn. May 25 2017- Security officers at local apartment complexes are paid to protect their given location. It sounds simple enough, but there is often more than meets the eye.
But security officers told FOX13 the problem isn’t who lives in the apartments. It’s who is lurking outside.
A security company offered to drive us around and expose what they called lawlessness and a lack of police presence. The location we were in is a community where city leaders promised to crackdown on illegal activity with a gang injunction.
But in just a few hours, we saw drug use and gang intimidation.
“You didn’t see a police car come down this street at all,” Ric Bailey, who owns a security company, told FOX13.
The Grape Street Crips have claimed the area. They have tagged the playground across from the apartments Bailey’s company guards.
During our drive with Bailey, he pointed out two members of the Crips and identified the house of a “leader.”
He told FOX13 a bad game of craps in the park or a short-changed drug deal can often be a source of violence in the neighborhood.
That’s why security guards in the area are very serious and very aggressive when it comes to keeping known gang members out of the apartments in Binghampton.
In one case, a fight ensued between gang members and security guards. We pulled up after the initial incident.
“Now this is going to escalate,” Bailey told FOX13. “Tonight, they’ll be out across the street, making threats.”
The security officers said a banned gang member tried to trespass onto the property and threatened one of the guards.
“He took a swing at one of my security guards. That’s when he went down,” Bailey explained.
We asked how the security team deescalates situations like this.
“I find the leader…I say, ‘Hey. Let’s work together,’” Bailey said.
What we witnessed after the scrum was community policing, except the police weren’t there.
Bailey’s guards have been in Binghampton for nearly a decade. They’ve seen children trade in the innocence for a bandana and gang life. They even know who to call when there’s trouble.
In one case, a mother gave the security team her phone number and said to call if they saw her son in the area.
Neighbors welcome the presence of security, in the absence of police.
“I know the police department is suffering a huge shortage right now,” Stormi Clark, who has lived in the area for two years, told FOX13. “I personally know they’re doing the best they can. But, you know, a lot of people are suffering in the meantime.”
“I love (the police),” Bailey added. “And they help us when they can, but there are just not enough of them.”
With police officers spending their time responding to 911 calls, there is fewer time to patrol neighborhoods and put a stop to problems before they escalate.
That means Bailey told FOX13 his security guards have to help fill the gap.
“I think we've made a difference overall,” he said. “Some days I feel like we're on a treadmill and we're not going anywhere, but we keep trying.”
Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings said he needs 2500 officers. But with a shortage of nearly 600 officers, he said police aren’t able to focus enough on community policing.