How Tennessee Is–And Isn’t–Fighting Its Gang Problem


The solution to gang problems “is not in one place,” gang expert Mike Carlie of Missouri State University tells The Tennessean. “It’s in the family, it’s in the faith community, it’s in the business community.” Concluding a three-part series, the newspaper says that across Nashville, parents, teachers, and neighbors have begun efforts that range from programs in schools to neighborhood watch groups. Other efforts are less organized, run by individuals inspired by their own troubled past. There is no centralized organization to help kids and young adults find their way out of gangs, or keep them from getting mixed up with them in the first place.

Some anti-gang workers view the crisis as a public health issue. “We’re playing catch up,” said Tommy Vallejos of Faith Outreach Church in Clarksville. He speaks to school groups about his youth as a gang member in New Mexico, in hopes of steering them away from that destructive path. Other cities offer safe havens, or shelters, for those trying to leave gangs. Some offer tattoo removal service for those who want to start anew and show no signs of a past life. Amanda Geppert of Chicago’s CeaseFire program said a first step for Tennessee would be to better track information about gang crime. In Tennessee, there’s no formal standard used by police. A crime linked to gangs in one area might not be considered a gang-related crime in another.

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