Friday, May 05, 2006

Police Expand Efforts Against Gangs

The Nashville City Paper confirmed this morning in a front pager the news published here 1st on May 1st that the Police Department is expanding its Gang Unit. The article has other information concerning the expanded efforts, including the assignment of narcotics detectives, federal agents, and Sheriff's office investigators to the Gang Unit.

The Police told the NCP that these changes are not occurring because gang activity has been increasing, but because of "improved communication between the department and neighborhood groups." As the head of the department's Specialized Investigations Division puts it, "Gang activity is more common on the public radar." That view is consistent with my experience and with what I've heard from long-term Salemtown residents who tell me that gangs used to walk up and down the streets openly carrying guns. The police say that the public now trusts the department more and is feeding more information on gangs to the police rather than remaining silent.

I know that since we started a neighborhood association and crime watch here in Salemtown, we have been more vigilant for gang-related activities and more aggressive about calling the police and reporting conditions to the officers who attend our association meetings on a regular basis. Our association can take encouragement from the fact that the police are publicly connecting the expansion of their gang units to the community response to end gang vandalism and violence in neighborhoods like ours. But we should not let up. As one Police Captain told the NCP, "We take information the public provides, select the hot spots based on that information, give the information to the patrol commanders and officers, and pressure these gangs and run them out of our city." So, we need to continue to be on guard for gangs in Salemtown.

We need to continue to push for high visibility from the police and the mainstream media on gang-related crime, while making sure that the media doesn't respond to it like it hasn't existed in the past or like it is only an inner city phenomenon. We also need to be aware that as our crime watch deters gang crimes in Salemtown, they will be taking crime to other neighborhoods that are less vigilant and more vulnerable. We need to branch out and network with organizers in other urban neighborhoods so that they get support as they experience increases in crime because of our success at preventing it.

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