MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Each year, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issues an annual gang report.
Because large metropolitan areas are cracking down on gangs, this year’s numbers show the gangs are moving out of big cities.
So, where are they going? They’re headed to the country, or at least small towns.
The TBI numbers indicated that gang crime has more than tripled in cities with populations fewer than fifty thousand.
“The gang members are crossing into Fayette County, Tipton County, Haywood County,” said Inspector Ray Garcia of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
That confirmed recent numbers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, showing that gang activity was up twenty five percent across the state; especially in rural areas.
“Gangs tend to go where they’re going to be less detected,” said Kristin Helm of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“Criminals do not care about county lines or city limits,” Garcia added.
The TBI said gang activity has been reported in 85 percent of all Tennessee communities.
“It’s those local law enforcement agencies now seeing criminal gang activity,” Helm said, “that perhaps they were not seeing ten years ago.”
And that activity is getting dangerous.
“They seem to have little regard for human life,” Garcia noted.
The key for small towns in combating gang activity is information.
Garcia said, “We have actually started our own gang intelligence meetings.”
Those meetings include the big boys, the Memphis-Shelby County gang initiative. Through intelligence and community outreach, it is the goal of law enforcement to educate small town Tennessee about gangs.
“For a long time our rural areas kind of turned a blind eye to gang activity,” Garcia told abc24.com.
But drive-by shootings, drug busts and blatantly displayed weapons are opening those eyes.
“If any community thinks it does not have a gang issue in their town,” Garcia said, “they are in denial.”
Inspector Garcia spoke of the criminal justice theory displacement, that dictates you don’t necessarily get rid of crime but move it to another area.
He said the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office will be doing its best to move local gang activity anywhere else.