Overwhelmed police officers admit gangs have taken hold in all corners of Tennessee to sell drugs, steal, and kill, reports The Tennessean in the first of a series. What was once largely an urban crisis has spread to suburban and rural communities. The gangs are no longer just graffiti-spraying delinquents. They are armed and dangerous criminal enterprises that recruit young people with the allure of fast money, street status, and a sense of belonging – even if the group they join may get them killed or sent to prison.
As in Tennessee, gang activity has spiked nationwide. Nearly 800,000 gang members and 27,000 gangs operate across the 50 states, a Justice Department survey shows. Some estimates have the figure at 2 million gang members. Gangs call themselves the Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Sur-13, Kurdish Pride, and dozens of other names. Some are chapters of national brands. They recruit in schools and in parks. Girls are joining at increasing rates, and affiliation among whites is on the rise – shattering stereotypes that gangs attract only minorities and boys.