Gangs being targeted
Posted: Friday, July 23, 2010 8:01 pm
NASHVILLE (AP) — They went by street names like “Big Screw Loose” and “Psycho.”
For the past three years, gang members with imposing nicknames like those have been targeted for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nashville.
Some 50 alleged members from three different street gangs have been indicted in Nashville since 2007. Many of them have already been sentenced.
“Nashville is safer because of it,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville said.
Those sentenced received prison terms ranging from 13 years to life. Charges included murder, conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, attempted murder, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and weapons violations.
Cornelius Carroll, a one-time member of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, now works with anti-gang groups in Nashville. He says the crackdown seems to be helping.
“I’m hearing a lot about it,” he said. “I see a lot of people being nervous about it.”
Most recently, a federal grand jury in June indicted 26 alleged members and associates of the Bloods, a violent street gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1970s and has migrated to other cities, including Nashville.
Investigators said crimes cited in those indictments date back to 2006.
“That particular gang is laying low now,” said Lt. Gordon Howey, who oversees the Metro Nashville Police Department’s gang unit. “It has an impact, at least for a little while.”
Christopher Slobogin, a professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, said the level of prosecutions locally seems to be aggressive though U.S. attorneys nationwide are going after gang members.
“One problem with prosecuting gangs is there is an almost endless supply of new gang members in some neighborhoods,” he said. “Federal prosecutors are trying to plug a dike.”
Slobogin said if there has been a plan for gangs to go nationwide, “this bolsters federal jurisdiction.”
Indictments have been returned against two other gangs, MS-13 and the Vice Lords.
Don Aaron, a spokesman for the police department, said the department’s 21-member gang unit covering three shifts has worked closely with federal prosecutors.
“The quality of our investigations is noticed here and in Washington (by the Justice Department),” Aaron said. “When we think we have a case, we take it to the federal government. They are always willing to look at what we have.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office did not respond to telephone messages and e-mails seeking comment about their work.
Rev. James Turner II of Nashville, a specialist in counseling gang members and other young people, said gang members have been prosecuted for years nationwide “and it hasn’t slowed them down.”
“You can’t arrest your way out of this problem but it does send a message,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 7.23.10