Police say efforts in 2010 paid off in battling the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 gang members in at least 14 gangs in the Nashville area, the Tennessean reports. Lt. Gordon Howey, head of the police gang unit, said the department recorded about 111 gang-related crimes through Dec. 20 of last year, a pace far lower than the 239 in 2009.
After years of gang violence spreading from large, urban cores and into the suburbs, police signaled renewed efforts in 2010 to combat the growing threat to Middle Tennessee. No longer could the problem be ignored as customers fled for their lives outside a restaurant during a gang shootout with police, or when the very next day a 5-year-old girl was wounded in cross-fire from gang warfare. “I think we’ve brought it to the forefront,” said Tommy Vallejos, a former gang member who is a Montgomery County commissioner and director of Hispanic Organization for Progress & Education, which works to rid Middle Tennessee of gangs. “People throughout the state are knocking on the door. It’s turned into a phenomenon.” Local and federal law enforcement made two major gang racketeering cases, one against an East Nashville-based Bloods gang, another against a Somali gang suspected of forcing underage girls into prostitution.