Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

West TN Gang Work

BJA Program(s): Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
State(s): TN

Jurisdiction(s): West Tennessee

Grantee Agency: State of Tennessee, Office of Criminal Justice Programs
Subgrantee Agency: 30th Judicial District Attorney General's Office

Grant Amount/Year(s): FY 2011/265287

About the Program:

In accordance with Governor Haslam’s Public Safety Action Plan, the Office of Criminal Justice Programs (OCJP) actively engaged with local communities to address the rise in gang activity in West Tennessee.

Local law enforcement officers, correctional officers, probation/parole officers, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report growing gang activity in many areas of Tennessee but specifically Memphis, Jackson, and rural West Tennessee. Officials are seeing an increase in drugs and violence due to gang activity. OCJP funded two projects aimed at reducing gang violence and activity in FY 2014.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office received funding to support the work of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU), a collaboration between the Shelby County District Attorney General, the Director of the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, the ATF Special Agent in Charge, and the FBI Special Agent in Charge. Each agency commits personnel, equipment, or funding to the MGU. The funds OCJP provides to this initiative support vertical prosecutions of gang members, associates, and enterprises who engage in felonious criminal activity and provides needed training and equipment for the partner agencies to use for investigations.

The City of Jackson was funded for its Gang Resistance Intervention Training (GRIT), a collaboration among public and private entities, including the City of Jackson, Madison County Government, Jackson Energy Authority, West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation, and the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. The GRIT program is run through the Jackson Police Department (JPD) and focuses on education and various intervention and suppression activities. JPD partners with the school systems, Juvenile Court Services, public housing and landlords, faith-based organizations, and other law enforcement agencies to reach at-risk youth.

Another aspect of this project is the collaboration between the Jackson Police Department Gang Unit and the other law enforcement agencies (city and county) throughout the 26th and 28th Judicial Districts. This collaboration has formed the West Tennessee Gang Task Force. Through meetings with the 26th Judicial District Attorney General and the law enforcement agencies which comprise the West Tennessee Gang Task Force, OCJP is supporting the task force with additional funding in FY 2015 for a "Gang Intelligence Command Center" integrated into the Jackson Police Department Special Operations Division and a dedicated prosecutor who will focus on crimes and individuals who commit crimes with a gang nexus. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is a partner on this collaborative project, providing equipment for investigations through another grant through OCJP. The Jackson Police Department will create a secure “Gang Intelligence Command Center” where investigators and staff can monitor cameras, help direct field operations, and at the same time have access to databases, records management systems, and LAN-based telephone lines in support of ongoing investigative operations anywhere in the West Tennessee Task Force Area. A dedicated prosecutor will focus on and defendants with a gang nexus and ensure that they get the maximum possible attention. A prosecutor familiar with gang members and cases with a gang nexus will ensure that person(s) or cases(s) with gang ties or nexus are not able to manipulate their way through the justice system with quick release in exchange for bond reductions, abeyances, probations, and plea bargains that essentially does not affect them or their ability to continue gang related crime. This dedicated prosecutor will handle prosecutions vertically from arraignment and pretrial to grand jury, Circuit Court, and sentencing and handle probation or parole violations on individuals. District Attorney General Woodall has committed that this prosecutor will be available to assist in other counties in the 26th and 28th Judicial Districts.

Program Successes/Effect on the Community:

During the six-month reporting period, and as a direct result of the investigative work by the two MGU criminal investigators funded by this grant, the MGU Prosecution Team was able to handle 324 gang-related cases. Additionally, some of the cases involve multiple defendants. This total is less than the 1,000 cases handled during the 12 months of 2012; however, the prosecution caseload is largely dependent upon the number of cases identified, opened, and investigated by law enforcement. The 760 cases that were handled by the two Criminal Investigators funded by the grant involved many different investigative activities. These activities include interviewing 157 witnesses and victims; obtaining 62 statements; locating 530 victims/witnesses; making 14 arrests; serving 455 subpoenas; making media copies; transporting 170 victims/witnesses; checking criminal histories; handling evidence; testifying in court cases; attending required training. The outcomes of the training at the Gang Conference attended by two MGU officers are measured by a survey completed following the completion of the training session. The survey indicates that the officers have increased their knowledge and skills and that they will be able to apply what they learned to their jobs. Quarterly Community Forum meetings conducted by the MGU demonstrate an increased community involvement between the community and the MGU. Sign-in sheets show participation by 82 community representatives.

Learn More:
To learn more about the program, please contact:
Jeremiah Morton


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