Gangs infiltrate, threaten area


By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson Post

Gangs and gang-related crimes have a local presence.

That was the message Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe delivered Thursday to a Lebanon community service club.

 

A West Wilson gang member poses while in custody of law enforcement officials.

Ashe said gangs are responsible now for 80 percent of violent crime across the U.S. and related that gang activity here and in other counties in Middle Tennessee is increasing significantly.

According to the sheriff, his department, through criminal booking procedures, has identified in “Wilson County alone more than 700 people in the last 2-1/2 years” who are members of, or have relationships with, gangs.

 “This is a very serious problem,” Ashe said, adding that when reports are made about home invasions and other violent crimes that most of these incidents are gang-related.           Speaking to the Lebanon Morning Rotary, the sheriff noted that gang activity in Wilson County is focused primarily in Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.            He said there are Asian gangs operating in the West Wilson area, in bordering Antioch in Davidson County and in other Metro communities. In Lebanon, Ashe said, the principle gang is known as Gangster Disciples.          Lebanon he said has “become overrun with them (gangs),” adding that gangs have “infiltrated” the public housing project and gang activity locally has been on an increase for a number of years. The “entire region” he said has been infiltrated with gangs.           “I put an FBI undercover agent in the housing project,” Ashe said, to investigate gang activity. He said when the agent’s life became threatened he was removed. Ashe said the agent’s work, however, provided a great deal of information about gangs and gang members locally. Through the process he said his department and the Lebanon Police Department have been working closely with each other in an effort to deal with the issue.           In most instances, the sheriff said gang members can be identified by certain tattoo markings. Specifically, he said, a person wearing a tattoo with a “7” and “4” representing the letters “G” and “D,” respectively, indicates they are a member of Gangster Disciples. He said other tattoo symbols and markings stand as logos or representations for other gangs.           The increase in gang activity can be attributed to a number of factors, Ashe said, including immigration issues, the economy, war, and even the election of a first African American president.           Gangs, he said, are closely associated with, or in some cases are a part of, hate groups which now occupy a presence in a broad area of the U.S. particularly in the Southeast.            According to a document published by the Southern Poverty Law Center and distributed by Ashe yesterday to Rotary members, some 38 hate groups have organizations in communities in Tennessee.           He told of a recent happening here when local law enforcement officials tracked a Neo-Nazi group to a Lebanon hotel for a Friday meeting. He said the event was staged by a leader of that hate group who lives in nearby Smyrna. According to Ashe, more than one hotel room was reserved in Lebanon for the meeting at separate hotels although he said that was likely done by the group in an effort to conceal their activities.           Ashe said law enforcement is continuing to keep tabs on hate groups and their activities. He said among the most prominent of these organizations operating in Tennessee is the Ku Klux Klan.

CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at shatcher@wilsonpost.com.