NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Leaders of organized crime rings have their eyes on Music City, according to Metro police.
They say pick-pocketing and drugged drinks are at the top of their latest concerns.
“There’s a lot going on here. This is a place there’s an opportunity and they bring in people, people take advantage and they are gone,” said Commander Gordon Howey.
The latest shift in downtown crime trends he says is women targeting men, who claim they are drugged and robbed.
“We get a tremendous amount of reports about men in particular that have had encounters with women and then for one reason or another they wake up in a hotel room or somewhere else and things are gone and they don’t remember exactly what all has happened,” he explained.
Commander Howey says the criminals are coming from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Memphis and seem to have their eyes on a specific target.
“There’s a couple of different groups they do prey on men. They look for a certain type of man it appears; somebody from out of town that has a hotel room, someone that may be seeking a Lyft or Uber ride, rideshare ride. They typically will have some jewelry or what appears to be means and so we do have a number of those reports,” he stated.
While police have arrested some of the women for theft, prosecuting for drugging victims is difficult. One of the problems, Howey says, is that the victims don’t get tested. He said they have collected surveillance video from some of the establishments.
They are also looking at a ring of pick-pocketing groups hitting some of the most popular bars on Broadway.
“It use to be we hardly had anyone pick-pocketed downtown, but then, all of a sudden, about November of last year we started having a group coming out of Miami,” he explained.
Howey says their schemes can be elaborate.
“We’ve had reports that they are changing clothes, putting on whigs and going back into establishments, so we’ve identified a lot of those folks.”
He says they have been working with law enforcement in other states to close in on the criminals.
“They’ve been arrested in Brentwood, they’ve been arrested in New York City.”
His best advice is to be more aware of your surroundings, have someone with you, keep an eye on your belongings, as well as your drinks.
Carson Bedenbaugh at ACME Feed and Seed says, fortunately, they have not had any reports of such incidents at their downtown establishment.
“We have invested heavily in our security team over the past several years, and have been proactive in keeping Acme a safe, hospitable guest experience. This has helped Acme build a reputation for being a bad target for such activities. We also train our bar and service staff to not over-serve guests, again stressing hospitality and safety over sales at all costs,” Bedenbaugh explained.
The Sexual Assault Center has implemented a “Safe Bar” initiative. They are working with establishments to make sure the bar staff knows what to keep an eye out for.