Bradley Co. aims to prevent gang activity from spreading more - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bradley Co. aims to prevent gang activity from spreading more

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - As Hamilton County steps up its fight against gangs, Bradley County officials worry they'll start migrating there, so they're working to be proactive.

Bradley County's Juvenile Court says while gangs are not a major problem there now, they have seen an increase recently. They're working with local officials and organizations to tackle the problem before it becomes more prevalent.

"Gang manifestations have increased. We've seen juveniles with gang tattoos and we've identified 33 different gangs," Bradley County Juvenile Court Director Terry Gallaher said.

Gallaher says he's seen a steady increase in gang activity over the last three years, and it's picked up the last few months. Some proof of that is illustrated in graffiti around Cleveland and Charleston.

"We set up a database that has given us a way to track it and what we're going to do is build on that database and use that database to be a resource for law enforcement," Gallaher said.

He says they've even mapped out where active gang members, adults and juveniles, live. They're partnering with city and county officials and local youth and family outreach programs in an attempt to steer them away from that lifestyle.

"What we believe is that gang members will not have as big impact on our children if we can do something about the family dynamic," Gallaher said.

They say most who join gangs are from broken homes and are looking for a feeling of belonging. They're asking community members to volunteer their time to show them gangs aren't the only way to get that.

"We have a youth service officer that has a child on probation at one of the middle schools and his dad is an active gang member in Hamilton County," Gallaher said.

He says giving local youth a positive outlet now is the only way to prevent gang activity from spreading more into Bradley County in the future.

"We believe that we have a good grasp of what's coming and how to prevent it and that we're proactive," Gallaher said.

He says several other counties have contacted him interested in using their juvenile system as a model-- especially when it comes to their drug court, daily behavior classes and outreach programs, like its Master Gardeners Program. He says it's all part of Juvenile Court Judge Daniel Swafford's vision.

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