Friday, April 9, 2010

They're Ganging Up on Us

By Chester Campbell

Members of the Sur-13 gang in Franklin, TN

They go by such names as Dirty White Boys, Kurdish Pride, La Raza, Hate Crew, Lost Boyz, Brown Pride, Mexican Mafia, Laotian Crips, and Vice Lords. They're gangs, and a Justice Department survey puts their numbers across the country at 27,000, with their membership topping 800,000. They're mostly teenagers and young adults in their early twenties. A rash of drive-by shootings, murders, and assorted crimes committed by gang members prompted a renewed effort by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to crack down on the problem.

The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee says at least 20 percent of drug cases in the district are linked to gangs. The problem isn't limited to the major cities, either. Columbia, a town of 38,000 people some forty miles south of Nashville, has tied 300 car and home breakins to gang activities, primarily a group called the Lost Boyz.

In Nashville, the problem has migrated from the inner city to the suburbs. When two groups see each other in a parking lot, one officer said, "They don't think, and they don't care. They just start shooting." The Metro Police have counted 5,000 gang members in Nashville, and their Gang Unit has launched an intensive effort to reduce their impact.

Not too many years ago, gangs were considered graffiti-spraying juvenile delinquents. No more. They're organized criminal elements involved in drugs, burglaries, and other crimes. They're constantly murdering rivals, often wounding or killing innocent bystanders. One authority says these days it's more about controlling markets than controlling turf.

Metro Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas announced he was beefing up the gang squad, adding six detectives and a sergeant to the fourteen officers currently assigned. They plan to use civil injunctions to prevent gangs from going into certain neighborhoods, wearing certain types of clothes, etc. If they persist, they will be charged with contempt. It's a strategy that has been used successfully in California, Minnesota, and Texsas.

Shootings and murders are a constant feature on the nightly news, much of it attriibutable to gangs. A few days ago, one took place on a busy street outside a popular restaurant at lunch time.

There are likely a few mystery novels that feature gang violence, but I'm not familiar with any. As the problem grows across the country, however, it should be a fertile field for mystery writers. I've been thinking about using it in my next Sid Chance novel.

Are gangs a problem in your area? What are the cops doing about it?

Chester Campbell


Morgan Mandel said...

Pretty scary stuff. I'm sure we have some as well,but don't here too much about it usually.

Morgan Mandel

Jackie Vick said...

I have a friend who works at a school in Watts. They are surrounded by Bloods and Crips. It's ridiculous that the children can't wear certain colors, and I've heard that one gang has appropriated Mickey Mouse. What's with that?

Andy S said...

I guess it is no wonder so much violence is happening, with the gun laws (or lack of gun laws) that are such apart of the US. We have a bunch of crackpots here in Australia called 'the gun lobby' who would like to have the same chaos here as you do there. The fact is, if you give the population guns indiscriminately more people are going to die because of those weapons. Sometimes I'm amazed how the US seems to imploding upon itself. Question: How do you create a Third World country?
Answer: Follow the US example and you will get their eventually.

Anonymous said...

I looked this up because we had a gang symbol painted on the side of our house symbolizing the vice lords. I am worried on what I should do... If it means they will be doing a drive by shooting than so be it, but tonight I'm going to stay up and watch that wall to see what happens. If it turns out to be who I think it is, I'll put a bullet right through his head.