Cleveland law enforcement tackling increased gang activity - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland law enforcement tackling increased gang activity

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Law enforcement in Cleveland says it is working hard to curb a dramatic increase in gang activity. Officials say the number of documented members has doubled since 2013.

In 2013, there was a total of 45 documented gang members in Bradley County. Last year that jumped to a total of 98, mostly in Cleveland.

Law enforcement says while membership is increasing, numbers are also on the rise due to more arrests involving gang members.

"It's definitely something we need to be aware of and also make our citizens aware as well," says Officer Evie West.

Cleveland Police Officer Evie West says more and more, known gang members are trying to "lay low" in Cleveland.
 
"If people are in trouble, maybe they're trying to get away from something, maybe they're being sought out by police, they'll come here, get away from it. Cleveland is a very tight-knit community. It's small. And a lot of times they'll seek refuge here," she says.

The only problem is law enforcement is one step ahead.

The department has an officer dedicating his time to tracking gangs, as a part of the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association. He is in constant communication with surrounding agencies like Chattanooga Police.
 
"We receive emails about gang members in the area, law enforcement sensitive information, from there to let them know, 'Hey, we've seen people come in this area.'"

In 2010 there were four documented juvenile gang members and 18 adult gang members.

In 2014 there were five known juvenile gang members in the county and adult membership jumped to 93. About a quarter of those are in the Aryan nation.

Cleveland law enforcement says some of the growth comes from Chattanooga as police crack down.

They say the numbers have also grown due to proactive enforcement, arresting more gang members.
 
"You can get your license at 16. You can vote at 18. To become a gang member, there's no age," says Juvenile Probation Officer Nancy Stanfield.

Stanfield's goal is to try and prevent young people from joining gangs. She dedicates her time documenting tattoos and graffiti, educating the public on what to look for.
 
"We want to be ahead of the game. That's why you've got the police department, sheriff's department, juvenile, the DA's office, that's why we're all working together on this because we don't want to lose control of it," says Stanfield.

Cleveland law enforcement hosts 'gang awareness' classes for the public, letting area businesses and residents know about clothing, symbols, and traits associated with gangs.

If you think there is gang activity in your Cleveland neighborhood you can call 423-476-7511.

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