Come next month, the Metro Police Department will have not only a new gang unit patrolling the streets but a stronger version of a recently introduced gang fighting tool.
Starting May 1, a new gang unit — made up of six detectives and one sergeant — will join the two existing ones, creating more time and personnel to help build cases against those involved in gang activity. Evidence developed in those cases will go to supporting civil injunctions against gang members.
Last year, the General Assembly added gang activity to a list of nuisances under state law. Now district attorneys can go after gang members in civil court and serve them with injunctions to try to keep them from certain activity — hanging around a specific location or with a certain crowd, for instance.
“It’s going to have specific restrictions based on facts that are presented to a judge against the individual,” said Central Precinct Commander Damian Huggins.
If gang members don't obey the injunctions, they would face contempt of court charges and possible jail time.
Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said injunctions have worked well in other cities but at an expense of time and effort to build case files against gang activity, something usually done undercover.
The six new detectives and one new sergeant come directly at the cost of officers in the field, which Serpas said that he’s “loath to do,” but that the shift in manpower makes sense to effectively fight gangs.
Police will also engage in “courtesy visits” to known gang members to talk about alternatives to their lifestyles.
Serpas and his ranking staff announced the new plans in North Nashville, near where 16-year-old Loren Johnson died after being struck by stray bullet in a gang-related shooting.