Beggars, hustlers, and other shady characters are everywhere on and around Beale street. I just walked 100 yards from the Hampton Inn to a restaurant on Beale Street and was approached by two different beggars asking for money. The first one wreaked of alcohol and cold barely walk. The second one followed me for awhile before stopping me. He was sizing me up physically the entire time we were talking. Do some googling and you will see panhandling, robbery, shootings, stabbings, etc are not an uncommon occurrence in the area. There is a small army of petty criminals patrolling the area looking victims. I wouldn't recommend going to the area alone if you plan to drink and I wouldn't recommend leaving the main Beale Street area under any circumstances. The beggars and crime in the area detract a lot from what otherwise would be a great experience.
I am sure this is true of all major urban areas, but there are beggars EVERYWHERE here! You could literally be approached for money every 2-3 minutes. There are even posters downtown asking you not to give money to beggars. Don't look confused or act like you are looking for somewhere, or you will have multiple beggars approach you, offer you directions, and then ask for money in return. One guy came up to me and offered advice on where I should eat, so I smiled and said "Thanks" And then he said, "Buy me a sandwich." I didn't feel exactly intimidated, but it wasn't pleasant.
I moved here from Wisconsin because of a job relocation. I was excited to go eat at the famous Rendezvous but then quickly found out they are closed on Sunday and Mondays. As soon as i turned around there was a guy trying to give me information on other restaurant. I said thank you and as i was walking away he stopped me to ask for money for the information he just gave me about the other restaurants. Just keep walking , don't talk to any of the beggars and they may go away if your lucky. So strange to me that the entrance to Rendezvous is in a alley. Bye the way , this happened to me in the daytime.
Memphis is no different then any other big city when it comes to beggars. I've been to Memphis at least a dozen times ( yes on Beale St everytime) and have NEVER had a problem. If someone asks for money simply say no and move on. Common sense prevails everytime. I live near Chicago and there's bums there too just like anywhere else. Beale street is a fun time.
I really doubt you can escape walking far from Beale Street or Peabody Place without being approached by a bum, sometimes it can be somewhat frightening when it seems like your the only ones around. Memphis has really tried to make an attempt to make downtown safe, but a little common sense will save you a lot of hassle. If your hotel is not right next to Peabody, take the trolley if you can. We walked twice at night to the Sleep Inn and made home safe after a lot of nervousness.
WATCH OUT FOR THE BUMS AND CRACKHEADS THAT HANG OUT ALL OVER THE CITY. BE CAREFUL OFF BEALE STREET. IF YOU GO TO BEALE STREET, STAY ON IT. DON'T GO WANDERING OFF IT BECAUSE YOU WILL GET ASKED FOR MONEY BY EVERY ONE OF THEM
I've never encountered any 'dangerous situations,' but I will tell you that the areas surrounding Beale Street are a haven for beggars (don't go 'behind' Beale Street, on the South side of Beale Street. Almost directly behind Beale is a run-down neighborhood that would not be safe at night). If you are staying at a hotel downtown, and plan on walking back and forth to Beale Street, just be aware that you may encounter some people asking you for money. I've never had anything 'bad' happen, but still, be careful. I'm probably making it sound 'worse' than it is, but these people usually leave you alone if you tell them you don't have any money to give them.
Memphis has a lot of crime. A lot of crime. You'll notice this, since downtown, a lot of stores have bars on the windows and bulletproof glass. Above all, avoid Lamar Street. This is one of the worst areas in the USA.