Suburban Prey: Communities become targets of criminal opportunity

Crime Tracker

It was business as usual at the Sprint Store in the heart of Mt. Juliet’s popular Providence shopping district, an area surrounded by busy restaurants and retail.

But things changed dramatically on a Wednesday night in January when a group of teenagers burst into the store with opportunity in mind. Surveillance video showed how they worked with precision, forcing employees at gunpoint to open a register and then a safe in the back room. Click here to watch the video from the News 2 app

Lisa Ilacqua was the manager on duty that night. “Just kind of crazy that Nashville is getting so big. It’s pushing out where all the crime especially juvenile crime,” she told News.

18-year old An’via Blakely and three juveniles ages 14, 15 and 17 were charged with aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and theft in the case. They were taken into custody the next day after coordinated efforts by Mt. Juliet Police, the Metro Nashville Police Juvenile Task Force and an FBI agent.

Cooperation, in this case, was a key factor. “We immediately reach out to other agencies and inform them – hey, we’ve had this crime. Here [are] our suspects. Do you recognize any of these people?,” Mt. Juliet Police Captain Tyler Chandler said. “Got those suspects into custody by the next morning, all because of information sharing with another agency.”

This scenario is being played out in communities all around Middle Tennessee – Brentwood, Franklin, Gallatin, Hendersonville. Many of the crooks have a basic formula: target locations and victims within a short distance of interstate highways or major thoroughfares. Do the crime and get back on the road. More and more of these cases involve stolen cars.

“They use that as a weapon because they now take that car and use it as a mode to go crash into another car or commit a robbery in another jurisdiction, in another part of town that normally they wouldn’t have had that avenue to commit that crime,” explained Metro Nashville Lieutenant Blaine Whited.

He also reinforced the importance of cooperative efforts between local law enforcement. “Suspect, demographic information—that’s being shared. If someone has a case let’s say, specifically, let’s say Franklin Police have a robbery tonight. Well, they’re going to send that information if they have surveillance, photographs, whatever description the victim gave. They’re then going to send that out to our partners and we’re more than likely going to know who that is.”

In Hendersonville, police have now set up a war room of sorts to be proactive. Officers recently showed New 2 a dry-erase board filled with crimes and leads. The incidents listed were from just a one week period.

Commander Scott Ryan said most of the car thefts and car burglaries outlined on their board involve young suspects from Nashville who come to Hendersonville to commit crimes. “And you know what, next week it’ll be clean, and we’ll start all over with it again because the crime keeps coming out of Nashville,” Ryan added.

News 2 is digging deeper into cities and suburbs being targeted by criminals. We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. “Suburban Prey” will investigate the trends with these cases and examine the important steps and action plans designed to keep you safe.

Watch SUBURBAN PREY all day Thursday in every newscast on News2 and WKRN.com.

Stories featured include:

Clarksville police collaborating with agencies to solve crimes

Woman’s brutal assault illustrates constant fight against crime in Rutherford County

Agencies teaming up to solve rash of violent crime in Mt. Juliet

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