If you date a gang member, you could find yourself behind bars.
That's the message one Chattanooga police officer is hoping young women will hear loud and clear.

The number of young women in Chattanooga who are victims of gang violence is growing and it has Lt. Glenn Scruggs taking to Facebook in hopes of keeping them alive and out of jail.

"This year of the 24 homicides, eight of them have been women. Of that eight, six were leading a less-than-savory lifestyle. They were involved in things they shouldn't have been involved in."

It started as a Facebook post Lt. Scruggs hoped would set the record straight. Here's the Facebook post in full:

"Public Service Announcement: Good evening Chattanooga. Some of you may have noticed that in many of our violent crime incidents this year young women have been either targets, primary suspects or willing conspirators & accessories after the fact. This trend is rising. I think that some of these young women have been led to believe that they'll somehow be considered "cool or gangsta" if they're involved in violent criminal acts. Furthermore, they believe that if they're caught & arrested, the police & courts will be more lenient on them than they would be on a male suspect. Let me be clear: IF that was ever the case, those days are long gone. 

YOUNG WOMEN, if you are involved in violent criminal acts, law enforcement will doggedly pursue & prosecute you with ZERO regard to your gender.

PARENTS, if you have daughters who are actively choosing to associate with criminals & are participating in violent crimes, reach them before it's too late. 

Fair warning..."

Lt. Scruggs wants to make it clear women who associate with gang members are putting themselves in harm's way.

"They are just as at risk as the guys that run around doing the shooting," he said, "I think girlfriends often think, you know they won't do anything to me I'm just their girlfriend. Well no, you don't get a pass, if that ever was the case those days are long gone."

Many of the women he meets on duty are teenagers and young adults.

They're living in the same communities where Toccora Johnson from Girls, Inc. tries to mentor.

"What are we doing to get out in the these communities to educate our girls, our teen girls and our young adult females?" Johnson asked.
Johnson doesn't want to see girls fall under a bad influence and risk their futures. She's already seen enough of that growing up in Chattanooga's West side.

"I remember several times getting off the school bus in the west side and seeing the tape, the caution tape, and seeing the red and blue lights."

Another misconception, Lt. Scruggs doesn't want young women to think a judge will go easy on them for being female, or a mother, if they've been involved in a crime.

"The law isn't going to view you as a woman, they're going to view you as a suspect," he said, "And if you're involved in crime you're going to be punished just like I would be if I were involved in crime."