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Ganging up on Gangs in Shelby County

Memphis police officers, Shelby County deputies, the FBI, ATF, U.S. Attorney's Office and prosecutors in the District Attorney's office are teaming up to fight the growing gang problem in Western Tennessee.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis police officers, Shelby County deputies, the FBI, ATF, U.S. Attorney's Office and prosecutors in the District Attorney's office are teaming up to fight the growing gang problem in Western Tennessee.

Leaders with the new Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) used a unit in Fresno, CA as a resource. MGU has been more than a year in the making. Fresno has one of the most successful programs of its kind, and even the Fresno team was surprised by the kind of problems the gang unit faces in Memphis.

Leon Savage, who lives in the Verano Apartments in Whitehaven, says, "Our son got killed the first of March, right over here behind the dumpster he got killed."

Savage's son was shot in the back of the head during a robbery in their complex. "It's just the young folks, they don't know anything about life, they don't value life," he says.

Shelby County's District Attorney General, Amy Weirich says, "I would say a lot of crime is driven by that gang activity or wannabe, or acting out in the name of the gang."

One of the largest spots of gang activity in Memphis is at the Verano Apartments. It's under a nuisance order by the District Attorney's office but that hasn't stopped rapes, shooting and murders. The complex was one of the stops for the Fresno team when they visited Memphis. Weirich says, "They were pretty surprised at what they saw. People come here and they don't expect to see that level of activity."

Savage says the problems are getting worse. "Last month somebody just got killed crossing the wall over there."

While the operations team MGU will focus on enforcement and punishment, there's another part that's just as important. Weirich says, "We have a lot of information about our young people and the bad roads they can get on and how they get on those and what can we as a community do to keep them off those roads. Prevention and intervention piece was very important to us."

The six agencies devoted to gang prevention will work together daily to keep Savage's nightmare from becoming a reality for anyone else. "They're going to be housed together, working together and housed with the prosecution team." Weirich says, "There's going to be that day to day interaction, bouncing of ideas and concepts."

MGU plans to host community forums and ask that anyone with gang-related questions or problems contact them immediately at (901) 222-GANG (4264).

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