Gangs Thrive in Small TN Towns; Can Ill-Equipped Police Handle Them?


Gang-related crimes rose by nearly 25 percent in Tennessee last year, says The Tennessean. They have more than doubled since 2005, the first year gang crimes saw a significant spike. While larger cities unveil gang task forces, sweeping federal racketeering investigations and large-scale drug raids, the state's small towns are becoming incubators of gang violence. Since 2005, cities with fewer than 50,000 residents saw gang crime more than triple. “By and large, the average citizen, I don't think, sees or knows what's really going on. There's a lot of people that are just in denial or unaware. If it doesn't impact them directly, they wouldn't know about it,” said Springfield police Chief David Thompson. “We've reached a space now where you can't ignore what's happening.”

Rural towns often have small and sometimes ill-equipped police departments, which can make the communities vulnerable and attractive to young criminals trying to dodge larger cities with more sophisticated gang units. Gangs find rural areas to be full of eager, new drug customers and devoid of competition from other gangs. Said the FBI's annual National Gang Threat Assessment in 2011: “Gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities to recruit new members, expand their drug distribution territories, form new alliances, and collaborate with rival gangs and criminal organizations for profit and influence.”

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