Beale Street Blues–and not the musical kind

The July/August issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a sad story about the rise of crime, especially murder, in mid-sized American cities. In the article, Memphis is the poster child for this rise, along with Florence, South Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; and Orlando, Florida, to name a few cities.

The cause of this crime rate appears to be the dispersal of public housing residents into neighborhoods outside of the inner city. While some individuals and families take the opportunity to better themselves, others bring their problems–and trouble-causing family members, boyfriends, etc.–with them. There is a direct correlation between crime and people whose rentals are subsidized by the federal government–“Section 8 rentals.”

What does this rise in crime mean for visitors to Memphis? Not much, I think. The downtown area where visitors tend to go has fewer incidents of violent crime than outlying neighborhoods, but a piece in the Memphis Flyer suggests that homeless people and rowdy young folks are driving visitors away from Beale Street, the focal point of Memphis’s downtown tourism.

In the article, Senior Editor John Branston writes the following: “Travis Cannon, owner of Wet Willie’s, said he came to Beale Street in 2000 when business was booming. Lately, however, an increasing number of panhandlers and homeless people have driven away business.

“‘We need to make people feel safe,’ he said.”

Keeping Beale Street safe yet fun is easier said than done. The street cultivates an image as Tennessee’s Bourbon Street, which requires a certain amount of letting the good times roll. However, coming out of a club on a hot night into a street filled with shirtless young men–the kinds of guys the Brits call “yobs,” is no fun.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

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