The Memphis Police Department (MPD) is ratcheting up its presence on Beale Street, but you won't notice any more officers.
The added presence comes in the form of four new surveillance cameras mounted at key intersections of Beale Street — Second Street, Third Street, W.C. Handy Park, and Fourth Street. The cameras are linked into the MPD's Real Time Crime Center, a $3.6 million surveillance command center that opened in 2008 and operates 24 hours a day.
While this expanded camera presence has been at least a year in the making, the added surveillance couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.
A shooting at Club Crave at 380 Beale on September 24th left six people hospitalized and sent a shiver through the bustling tourist district.
"The Sunday after the shooting you could definitely feel it," said Ty Agee, president of the Beale Street Merchants Association and owner of Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe. "[My business] was probably off by a third for the day. The New Daisy had an all-ages show, and it hurt them pretty bad. There were a lot of cancellations."
The following week, 10 people were arrested for fighting and disorderly conduct at Club 152 on Beale.
Although the timing of the camera installation suggests a direct response to recent incidents on Beale, Lt. Ken Shackleford of the Real Time Crime Center said the camera locations had already been selected based on a "heat map" of concentrated areas of criminal activity throughout the city.
The MPD's Blue Crush model of data-driven policing identifies crime hotspots where police target their resources.
Officers at the Real Time Crime Center monitor the live camera feed and alert officers in the area if something looks suspicious.
"You can patrol an area with a camera just like having police in cars," Shackleford said.
Agee supports the increased camera presence on Beale Street.
"It's the best thing," Agee said. "Anytime you can enhance your area and make people feel more secure, you're better off. We're 100 percent happy with it."
But he still maintains that Beale Street is as safe as it has ever been.
"Whether you go back to 2006 or 2001 when you had a shooting at Plush Club or whatever that building was at the time, these things have happened," Agee said. "And it's unfortunate, but you've had fights on Beale Street for 20 years. It just comes in cycles. That was just a bad two weeks, and it made Beale a lightning rod."
Things have improved since then, said Agee, adding that Beale Street recently enjoyed one of the most fruitful October weekends it's had in years.
"Beale Street will always overcome," Agee said. "It's very resilient."