A dangerous street gang with a nationwide reputation for violence has committed 20 shootings and seven murders in Nashville during the past eight years. The Tennessean reports that federal prosecutors got 14 members of the MS-13 gang off the streets by charging them under federal racketeering laws. Since then, police haven’t found any signs of the gang’s presence, not even a graffiti tag. Nashville police increasingly have been fighting gang members who often return to the streets within a few years or even months of their convictions. To keep them behind bars, police and prosecutors are looking for opportunities to send the cases to the federal system, where there is no chance for an early release from prison.
All told, more than 370 defendants from Nashville have been sent to the federal courthouse since 2005, with a 20 percent increase in cases this year. Those convicted on weapons offenses are serving an average sentence of eight years in the federal system, where parole is not an option. “We think and hope our investment in this strategy will result in the most dangerous, gun-toting felons being put away Serpas blames weak state sentencing laws for much of the city’s problems with recidivism. Roughly 70 percent of those arrested by Nashville police have prior convictions. The chief says that means the problem is not with catching criminals, but with keeping them behind bars. Capt. Todd Henry, who oversees the police gang unit, said stiffer penalties are necessary for the city’s 3,000-plus active gang members.