The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the gang problem in Nashville is large and includes illegal drugs, violent crime, bank robberies and extortion.
Federal investigators work closely with state and local police agencies to stop gang activity in local neighborhoods.
According to the FBI, gangs will often work together to turn a profit in Nashville. The most active gangs are neither well-known nor do they have national ties, like the Bloods or Crips.
The gangs of Nashville have names you likely haven’t heard.
“It’s the local neighborhood gangs that we have the most problem with,” said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Espenshade with the FBI Nashville Resident Agency.
“These groups will affiliate with each other to have certain criminal activity that they cooperate with and they will move apart and do their own thing for a while, and then they’ll come back together,” he said. “It’s a much more free-flowing kind of gang affiliation than you may be accustomed to.”
The FBI says it will use intelligence to find out what gangs are causing problems and who is affiliated with those gangs.
Espenshade said ending gang activity in Nashville is crucial, especially because of the violent crime members often perpetrate. When violent crime is involved, there can be innocent bystanders.
Right now, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Metro police are working together in a “Public Safety Partnership” to help curb violent crime in Nashville, including gang activity.
Federal investigators even work with the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) to find out who affiliates with gangs behind bars, when they’re being paroled and where they are going once they’re out of prison.
“A lot of gang affiliation that we see happens when people go to prison for the first time,” said Espenshade. “They might not be in a gang previously, or if they are, then that gang activity continues when they go to jail.”
He says it’s a longstanding problem and one of which law enforcement is aware.
The FBI said it also does more than enforcement. It participates in programs to help show people that they have other options than joining gangs.